The Federal Reserve's latest quarterly Flow of Funds report revealed the first increase in U.S. household debt since before the financial crisis in the third quarter of 2013.
In short, Americans have stopped paying down debt, and releveraging has officially begun.
We asked 113 of our favorite portfolio managers, strategists, analysts, and economists across Wall Street for the charts that they deem the most important of the year, and this is the one we received the most.
"The, frankly, token attempts at cutting back over the last few years are over, and it’s back to business for U.S. households," said James von Simson, a portfolio manager at Thurleigh Investment Managers.
There is a strong sense that this bodes well for the U.S. economy.
"After ﬁve years of persistent debt pay-down by households, the U.S. private sector deleveraging cycle appears to have come to an end, and with it is the increased prospect for a more sustained economic rebound," said Millan Mulraine, a director of rates, FX, and commodities research at TD Securities. "The ﬁrst quarterly increase in mortgage debt and sharp rise in credit-card borrowing in Q3 (shown in this chart) marks a crucial turning point for the U.S. recovery, and it suggests that consumer spending activity could again become an important driver for sustained growth going forward."
Cullen Roche, founder of Orcam Financial Group, agrees.
"This is a clear sign that the household credit crisis is coming to its ﬁnal chapters and that the U.S. economy is officially stepping out of a very nasty chapter in U.S. economic history," said Roche.
Now, we won't have to hear talk about deleveraging in the U.S. anymore, according to Matt Busigin, editor and principal author of Macrofugue Analytics.
"This is both healthy and sustainable as long as the pace (of debt expansion) is below the rate of national income growth," said Busigin. "Deleveraging as an investment and economic theme is over."
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