During a time when money is cheap, consumers are getting shut out of potential credit opportunities thanks to plummeting property values, quickly falling interest rates, and a shift in consumer debt.
According to new data recently published by the Federal Reserve, American businesses have been taking on new debt at the fastest rate since the 2008 financial crisis.
This would not necessarily be notable, but American households are inversely getting rid of their debt at a comparable rate, which is making an extremely unstable market even more volatile.
For example, Michael Shreve is having a lot of trouble trying to sell his home, despite an impressive credit score. The 57-year-old science teacher from Marysville, WA has observed the steady decline in mortgage rates and is now among the unfortunate population of consumers who are not able to cash in on their good behavior.
To be more specific, he has not been successful at trading in his 6.35% 30-year mortgage because they actual property is now worth less than when he bought it.
“At some point interest rates are going to go up again,” he said.
I should have been able to get those low rates. It’s not fair.
Indeed, it is not fair; especially when you consider that since interest rates have been in steady decline for the past several years, American companies are cashing in on low borrowing rates that are now not available to consumers.
In the first quarter of 2012, for example, American businesses have been recorded to be taking on new debt at an alarming pace while consumers are trying to get rid of theirs. Just as with Shreve, many consumers in America are looking to refinance or sell their homes but banks do not seem to be willing to extend additional credit right now.
While this is definitely not an easy thing to deal with, consumers are also feeling the crunch in terms of investing too. Because of the volatility of the US market (as well as the rest of the world), consumers are putting away every penny they can save.
Unfortunately for consumers who are getting a late start on a savings program, most of these accounts are only paying interest at a measly 0.1 percent yield.
President of Yardeni Research, Ed Yardeni, says:
There’s definitely winners and losers in this kind of extremely low interest rate environment. In this case, any borrower that has access to the capital markets and doesn’t have to fill out a loan application at a bank is definitely going to have a tremendous advantage.
Indeed, new credit accounts that are not going to expose existing credit may actually be of a great benefit to many consumers.
Still, the collective reduction in household debt across the country is easily a good sign of things to come. Allen Sinai, chief executive of Decision Economics says
What Americans have learned is that they can live with the old house. Why take on debt and obligate yourself? They are unencumbered more than ever before.
What is, perhaps, most interesting about the recent findings is that it exposes consumers to the kind of power the central bank has over the general credit populace.
This effect is polarizing among the different populations in the country and policy makers are growing concerned that Americans need to be more willing to take some risks. Until they do, the housing market will probably not be able to recover as swiftly and sweetly as many would prefer especially with many markets still in decline, an absence of policies that benefit consumers, and consumer confidence remaining low.