Consumer credit drop good news for the frugal, for retailers not so much

For years, we became so accustomed to consumer credit going up, up and up, it was one measure of the economy that seemed infinite. In February, however, consumers proved gravity, cutting their borrowings for the fourth time in the last six months. Consumer credit outstanding fell by an adjusted rate of about 3.5 percent or $7.5 billion, to $2.564 trillion. Bloomberg had estimated it would fall by only $3 billion, and Dow Jones, by just $1 billion.

More than $7B may seem huge, but there was a revision in January to higher credit and a final smallish drop in December, and this sort of makes today's reading a wash. January's consumer credit was revised to a gain of $8.1 billion rather than the $1.8 billion rise originally reported; and December's consumer credit fell by $5.6 billion instead of $7.5 billion.