The plastic ATM machine

Credit card debt rose sharply in November. But what's a trillion dollars, here or there?

Published January 9, 2008 3:37PM (EST)

It is not quite true, as Dean Baker writes this morning in his blog Beat the Press, that "no one" noticed Tuesday's report from the Federal Reserve announcing that credit card debt "soared at a 11.3 percent annual rate in November following an 8.5 percent rate of increase in October."

The Wall Street Journal covered the news on page A2 today, which has to be considered reasonably high billing. But while noting that the 11.3 percent spike was the largest since a 12.8 percent rise in May, the Journal neglected to put the numbers in quite the same context as Baker.

[In 2006] credit card debt rose at a 6.1 percent rate and in 2005 at just a 3.1 percent rate.

People borrow against their credit cards when they can't borrow against their homes. It looks like a lot of people can't borrow against their homes.

As of November, total outstanding revolving credit debt in the U.S. equaled 943 billion dollars, up 17 billion from October. Meanwhile the Financial Times observes that U.S. credit card delinquencies have begun to grow in the past few months. According to research from Citigroup, says the FT, there is "an overlap between a sharp increase in early credit card delinquencies and those markets where house price rises had been wildest."

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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