US consumers shunned borrowing in April as economy shut down

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer borrowing plunged in April as households fretted about the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and cut back on their use of credit.

The Federal Reserve reported Friday that total borrowing fell by $68.8 billion, or 19.6%. That was the biggest one-month decline in percentage terms since the end of World War II.

Borrowing in the category that includes credit cards fell by $58.3 billion, or 64.9%, a record decline in a series that began in 1968. Borrowing in the category that covers auto loans and student loans fell by $10.5 billion, or 4%.

Economists believe consumers will keep cutting back on their borrowing for the rest of this quarter, reflecting an overall economy that is expected to shrink by at a record annual rate of around 40% during this period.

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The Trump administration is expecting a sharp rebound in the second half of this year but many economists are concerned that those hopes could be derailed if coronavirus cases begin rising sharply as the country tries to re-open.

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