Thursday, June 18, 2009

Americans reducing debt

Here is a big story that Americans are reducing debt. We wonder about the hows and the whys. Are Americans reducing debt because their home equity line has been cut-off? Their credit cards closed or reduced? Perhaps the fact that lenders are reducing the amount they are willing to lend out a part of it. During the bubble their were rumors of children and pets receiving credit card offers. Now people have to fight to get any credit. And monitoring one's credit score is a part-time job. This Gallop Poll titled Americans Deleveraging: One in Three Has Reduced Debt forgets to mention that almost one in for is increasing their debt. Let's take a look at the report -

Gallup Poll trends show Americans continuing to cut back on debt. In a May 29 survey, 31% of Americans say they have decreased their total outstanding debt over the past six months -- essentially the same as the percentages who said this in April (32%) and March (34%). Only 23% of consumers increased their debt in May, also not much different from March and April.

Many Americans Say Now Is a Bad Time to Borrow

Over the past three months, almost half of Americans have consistently indicated that now is a "bad time" to borrow, including May's 46% "bad time" reading. At the same time, the 19% in May who say now is a "good time" to borrow is typical of such sentiment since March. While many on Wall Street are talking about a thaw in credit-market conditions, those on Main Street do not seem to perceive this.

Many Worried About Making Their Monthly Payments

The percentage of Americans saying they are worried about keeping up with their monthly payments over the next six months reached 25% in May -- up from 20% a month ago and 23% in March.

The survey has an error of ±3 percentage points - so the debt reduction could be as low as 28% with the debt increased as much as 26% - perhaps not that great of a difference. It would also be interesting to know where the debt reduction was taking place - in super bubble states or equally across the country. And did the debt levels reduce among people who lost income (either lost their job totally or still employed but with substantially less income).

The report also notes that while there may be green shoots on Wall Street the concern about keeping up with payments indicates that nothing has sprouted yet on Main Street. It also warns about the greet shoots turning brown - yes, it really does note that! Sounds like pretty good analysis to us.

One last point - we wonder how this would look as compared with historical data. During the bubble what did the numbers look like? And how did they look pre-bubble?

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