Last quarter, upon the release of the Q4 2011 Z.1 (Flow of Funds) report, we penned "The US Deleveraging Is Now Over", because, well, it was: all the categories tracked by the Fed's Credit Market Debt Outstanding series posted a sequential increase over Q3.
Most importantly, there was an increase in the net debt held by the US Household Sector: this was only the first time after 14 quarters of declines, that US consumers had levered up. Sure enough, many took this as an indication that the economy was now fixed, and that with everyone levering up, inflation was sure to follow, and the virtuous cycle was back (also leading to the scare when the yield on the 10 year spiked, however briefly, to the mid 2% range).
As it turns out, the entire "releveraging" was merely a one time artifact of consumers relying more than ever on credit to purchase items in the holiday season. Because as the just released update from the Fed indicates, deleveraging is back with a vengeance. In Q1 the Household sector saw its total debt decline by $81 billion, or the most since Q1 of 2011, to $12.85 trillion. That this happened even as overall net worth supposedly soared by $2.8 trillion as noted in the previous article is truly disturbing, and confirms what everyone knows: not only is nothing fixed in the US economy, but the deleveraging wave continues on its merry way.
Source: Z.1, table L.1