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By Jonnelle Marte: August 3rd 2021

Aug 3 (Reuters) – U.S. consumers’ demand for new debt grew in the second quarter and credit card use rebounded, reversing the trend of declining card use seen earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released on Tuesday by the New York Federal Reserve.

Total household debt increased by $313 billion in the second quarter to $14.96 trillion, the New York Fed said in its quarterly report on household debt and credit. Mortgage debt continued to be the biggest driver of that growth, rising by $282 billion to $10.44 trillion by the end of June.

“We have seen a very robust pace of originations over the last four quarters with new extensions of credit for mortgages and auto loans combined with rebounding demand for credit card borrowing,” Joelle Scally, administrator of the Center for Microeconomic Data at the New York Fed, said in a statement.

Credit card balances ticked up in the second quarter as consumers boosted spending, increasing by $17 billion after mostly declining since the start of 2020. Despite the increase, credit card balances were still $140 billion below where they were at the end of 2019.

In another sign that consumers’ demand for credit is growing, the number of credit inquiries made within the past six months increased by 3.7% to $121 million, reversing the decline that started in the second quarter of 2020.

New extensions of credit for mortgages and auto loans reached record highs in the second quarter, the study found. Auto loan originations, which include both loans and leases, reached $202 billion.

A total of $1.22 trillion in new mortgage debt was originated in the second quarter, including mortgage refinances. Some 71% of those loans went to borrowers with high credit scores, the report found.

A total of $4.58 trillion in mortgage loans were originated over the past four quarters – the equivalent of 44% of total mortgage debt outstanding. Roughly 40% of originations were for home purchases and 60% were for refinances, New York Fed researchers said.

Still, some homeowners continued to struggle with their loans. Just under 2 million mortgages remained in forbearance programs at the end of June, down from 9.3 million earlier in the pandemic, New York Fed researchers said in a blog post published on Tuesday.