Consumers keep piling up credit debt, Fed reports

Herald staff

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve said Friday consumer credit increased by a larger-than-expected seasonally adjusted $13.4 billion in September, or 10.9 percent at an annual rate, the fastest pace since June.

In August, demand for revolving credit, such as that used for credit cards, rose by $7.2 billion — a breakneck 13.5 percent annual rate — up from $3.7 billion and a 7.1 percent rate in July.

The total nonrevolving credit, such as loans for new cars, vacations and other big-ticket items, advanced by $6.2 billion at an annual rate of 8.9 percent. That was up from $5.3 billion and a 7.7 percent rate in July.

  • Jobless rate drops: The still-sizzling economy pushed the nation’s unemployment rate back down to a three-decade low of 3.9 percent in September and sent unemployment among blacks to the lowest point in history. The drop surprised experts because they expected economic growth to slow enough to hold the jobless rate steady at 4.1 percent, the rate in August. Friday’s report — coming just one month before the Nov. 7 elections — spelled good news for workers and for politicians hoping voters will give them credit.

  • Friday’s prices: Gold sold for $270 a troy ounce, silver for $4.94 and platinum for $585.80.

  • Merger report denied: First Union Corp. issued a statement Friday to deny that it is in merger talks with Wells Fargo, the nation’s fifth-largest bank. "There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that First Union is or has been engaged in merger discussions with Wells Fargo," First Union, the nation’s No. 6 bank, said in a statement. First Union typically doesn’t comment on merger or market speculation, but made an exception in this case because media reports were causing "employee confusion."

  • Car seats defective: Four million infant car seats made by an Ohio company have defective handles that can cause serious injuries to babies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. The problem involves all Century rear-facing infant car seats/carriers manufactured from January 1991 through July 1997. The defective seats have a molded plastic handle colored white, gray or tan. Consumers can call Century toll-free at 1-800-865-1419 for more information.

  • Visa fees may double: Federal fees that companies pay for visas to recruit skilled foreign workers would double to provide more training and education for American workers under a bill the House approved Friday. The $500 visa fee would rise to $1,000 if the Senate agrees as expected next week. The high-tech industry supported the increase in exchange for a dramatic expansion in the H-1B visa program that they had made a top legislative priority.

  • NW marketing chief named: Verizon Wireless has named Harry Thomas vice president of marketing for the Northwest. In his new role, Thomas is responsible for directing all marketing activities in the northwest area, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.
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