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Sep. 10, 2013

Economy Watch: Consumer Credit Sees Uptick

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

The Federal Reserve reported on Monday that U.S. consumer credit was up again, increasing at an annualized rate of 4.5 percent in July. All of the increase was due to non-revolving credit—which includes car loans and students for the most part—which was up at an annualized rate of 7.4 percent for the month.

By contrast, Americans continued to deleverage their credit cards. Revolving debt, a large share of which is represented by plastic, dropped at an annualized 2.6 percent in July. The most recent quarterly numbers for outstanding revolving consumer debt (2Q13) put the total at $851.6 billion. At the end of 2008, the total was a little more than $1 trillion.

The federal government has, through changes in student lending, become a major consumer creditor in recent years. As of the second quarter of 2013, the government held $566.1 billion in non-revolving debt, compared with a total of $104.3 billion at the close of 2008.

Consumer loans held by the federal government include loans originated by the U.S. Department of Education under the Federal Direct Loan Program, as well as Federal Family Education Program loans that the government has bought from banks and finance companies. It’s likely that that total will continue to increase, now that JP Morgan Chase and its ilk are getting out of the student loan business.

Ultra-wealth population on the upswing

Despite recent economic bumps, the world’s ultra wealthy population—those with total net assets of US$30 million and above—has reached an all-time high of 199,235 individuals, according to a report released on Monday by Wealth-X (a research firm specializing in data on the ultra-wealthy) and UBS. That’s a 6 percent increase in the number of the ultra-wealthy people in the world compared with a year ago, and combined they have a net worth of $28 trillion. Over the last year, that total has grown by $2 trillion, or roughly the GDP of India.

Though the rise of the newly ultra-wealthy in places like China and India has gotten a lot of attention, the growth in the number of very rich in the last 12 months was largely in North America and Europe. Those two regions were responsible for a net gain of nearly 10,000 individuals of more than $30 million net worth, and a total increase in wealth of U$1.5 trillion.

The report nevertheless predicts that at current growth rates, Asia’s ultra-wealthy population and wealth will eclipse that of Europe in 2021 and 2017, respectively. “The report forecasts that Asia will generate more [ultra-wealthy] individuals and wealth than the U.S. and Europe in the next five years,” UBS Wealth Management’s Joseph Poon notes. “This closely mirrors our own observations of the trajectory of wealth creation in Asia. In Asia, the segment is dominated by entrepreneurs in their first or second generation who are still heavily involved in their family businesses.”

Wall Street was feeling cheerful on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 140.62 points, or 0.94 percent. The S&P 500 advanced exactly 1 percent and the Nasdaq gained 1.17 percent.

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