Borrowing jumps ahead of Christmas

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Consumers borrowed an extra £1.5bn in November, partly to finance Christmas shopping

The amount of money being borrowed by consumers in the run-up to Christmas rose by £1.5bn, the largest rise for nearly eight years.

In November, consumers owed a total of £178.2bn on credit cards and loans, figures from the Bank of England show.

The monthly increase was the largest since February 2008 and compares with a rise of £1.2bn in October.

The rise in consumer credit follows signs of increased spending on the High Street.

Retail sales volumes rose by 5% in November compared with the same month in 2014, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The Bank of England figures mean that the average person in the UK now has borrowings of £2,759, even before mortgages are taken into account.

‘Concern’

The Money Advice Trust, the charity which runs National Debtline, said it was concerned by the figures, and expected an increase in personal debt in the months ahead.

“These figures confirm that we do need to keep a watchful eye on the huge growth in consumer credit we are now seeing,” said Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust.

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“Increased borrowing is to be expected in an economy that is recovering – but such steep rises in borrowing in recent months are a cause for concern.”

£1.5bn

extra consumer credit

  • £0.4bn on credit cards

  • £1.1bn loans and overdrafts

Economic boost

It also comes at a time when consumers are saving less.

In the last quarter of 2015, the ONS said households saved 4.4% of their income, the equal lowest ratio for 50 years.

“This will fuel concern that consumers are borrowing more and saving less to finance their spending, which is likely a consequence of relatively high consumer confidence and extended low interest rates,” said Howard Archer, the chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight.

However, other experts said that increased consumer borrowing provided a useful boost to economic growth.

“Credit flows are continuing to strengthen gradually, providing much-needed support to the economy as growth is hindered by slowing real income gains, the fiscal squeeze and the strong pound,” said Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

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