In Macy’s Herald Square store in New York, people are counting money.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
Total consumer debt rose to nearly $ 14.6 trillion by the end of 2020, driven by a record surge in mortgages in the red-hot real estate market, according to a report by the Federal Reserve on Wednesday.
Debt rose 1.4% over the past three months, an additional $ 206 billion, as households took advantage of low interest rates and ongoing fiscal and monetary stimuli.
Mortgage debt topped $ 10 trillion for the first time and grew the fastest in the fourth quarter since 2006. The quarterly increase of $ 182 billion culminated in a year when homeowners took advantage of the low refinance rates and city dwellers moved to the suburbs, brought about sustained displacement during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2020, total household debt rose $ 414 billion as the move from borrowing to financing automobiles and education to mortgages. That year, mortgage debt rose $ 486 billion, while student loans rose only $ 47 billion to $ 1.56 trillion, and auto debt rose by $ 43 billion to $ 1.37 trillion . Credit card debt decreased $ 108 billion to $ 820 billion during the year.
Borrowers have had two primary tailwinds over the past year – the low interest rates and the forbearance policies that have kept arrears in check.
Mortgage debt classified as “serious crime” or 90 days past due was 0.65% in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared to 1.1% a year earlier. Forbearance-targeted student loan debt fell from 9.21% in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 2.76% the year later.
The serious crime rate for all debt decreased from 2.36% to 1.25% during the reporting period.
“It will be interesting to see whether households will maintain these high home purchase and refinancing rates through 2021 and, more generally, how households will adjust their balance sheets, depending, in part, on whether and for how long they will tolerate payments on government-protected mortgages and Student loans, “New York Fed economists said in a blog post that accompanied the publication.