A quick glance at the headline of the just released Consumer Credit data may leave one with the impression that things are quickly improving for the US consumer. After all, at a monthly change of $7.6 billion in total consumer credit, this is not only a big beat of expectations of $4.7 billion, but is the highest monthly increase since June 2008. Time to declare an "all clear" for the consumer who based on this misleading data is now aggressively releveraging? Absolutely not. In fact, the Fed threw the kitchen sink in manipulating this monthly data. First, it pull page 1 from the BLS SOP: it revised the January increase from $5.01 billion to $4.44 billion, thereby making the change bigger. Second, the all importnat revolving credit number was once again negative at ($2.7) billion. This is the second consecutive drop in revolving credit after a brief pick up in December when consumers bought Made in Taiwan trinkets with their credit cards, and is the 29th out of 30 consecutive declines in the category. Offsetting this drop was the surge in Non-revolving credit: i.e., loans given by the US government and Fed-backed banks for car purchases and student loans. Next, all these numbers were seasonally adjusted: the NSA number actually plunged by $16 billion, from $2.433 trillion to $2.417 trillion. And the piece de resistance: the only source of funding in February, wait for it, was the federal government, as all other traditional sources of credit continue to retrench.
Bottom line: a dog tured wrapped in a Tiffany's case.
Monthly change in revolving and non-revolving credit (Seasonally Adjusted).
Monthly change by key holders of debt.