Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Financial Obligations End 1Q 2011

Below is the most recent data from the Fed on household financial obligations. This is somewhat related to some recent posts from Mike and Tom on debt and bank credit.

The data goes back 30 years and seems to correspond/correlate with "bull markets" or periods of strong economic activity and put in an all time (30 yr) high at the top of 2008 just before the GFC. Over this same 30 year period, other reports and analysis have indicated an "upward shift" in income distribution or a 'shift to the top' in incomes. Income disparity has increased and perhaps correspondingly, the average household's ability to service debt obligations has decreased accordingly. Unless incomes are re-established broadly across all income brackets, this de-leveraging may continue and the line on the graph may plummet to all time low levels before we may witness a true bottom in economic activity.

This data has a delay and the most recent data is as of the end of the 1Q. As of the end of 1Q it looks like households continue to de-leverage. Mike has identified that Loans & Leases in Bank Credit has increased but only over the last month or so. Checking the H.8 report in the link indicates that the increase in Bank Credit is mostly under Line Item 19 on Page 2 of the H.8: "Fed Funds and Reverse RPs with non-banks".

If this blip up in Bank Credit is an indication that households are able/willing to dip back into credit, it should eventually show up here in the Household Obligations report.


Crake said...

Playing devil's advocate:

I wonder how significant these swings are. That scale starts at 15% not 0, so while the chart looks like dramatic swings are happening, are they really?

For example, from 1980, which was the end of recession, so an extreme low point, to ~2008, which was an economic peak, so an extreme high point, you go from 15.5% to just shy of 19%.

So your chart is showing a swing of only 350 basis point from a low extreme to a high extreme taking place over a span of 30 years. Is that 350 basis point cycle really a material change much less a dramatic change considering the long of span and the extremes?

Matt Franko said...


Yes the economy seems to be very reactive to what looks like small changes in this ratio.

Remember income is a flow. So small changes in this % of household income can support the establishment of very large stock measures of debt, perhaps at increasing rates as borrowing rates have generally fallen also over this same 30 yr period..

I think this is why Mike looks at bank credit as perhaps a good leading indicator... Resp,