Recent commentary from a number of sources suggests that the US balance sheet recession is over.
Perhaps if you just look at the context of the last decade, then yes, consumer debt has fallen back from the build up that immediately preceded the crisis:
Much of this however has come from credit write offs and mortgage defaults, so it does not in of itself signify increased ability to take on more debt.
But if we look longer term, then we can see that debt has only fallen back from the final and increasingly insane splurge of the early 2000s. Debt to GDP ratios remain high:
I see no valid rationale that suggests debt can now be rebuilt safely while setting the stage for a return a normal healthy business cycle. Indeed, for a number of years I have felt that debt levels would need to move back to levels reached during the mid 1990s in order to pose a reduced threat to economic growth. Yes, interest rates are lower, but so is economic growth and real wage increases.
That said, consumer debt has increased since the end of 2012 and has no doubt contributed to growth in GDP:
But most of this has come from consumer credit with mortgage debt only recently rising (Q3 2013):
And even then, revolving consumer credit growth has been miserable, with the majority of the increase coming from non revolving debt (auto and student loans):
Motor vehicle loans (worryingly) are on a tear:
As are student loans:
And the amount of non revolving loans held by the Federal Government:
None of the above suggests a healthy credit/debt environment.
- U.S. Consumer Debt Burdens at Record Low
- Labor Market Upheaval, Default Regulations, and Consumer Debt