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The year has just begun but it already appears consumer confidence is on the uptick. Two major credit card issuers, American Express and Capital One, have revealed that their U.S. credit card loan balances rose in the fourth quarter of last year, according to company press releases.

Capital One reported its U.S. credit-card loans grew 5.1 percent from the previous year, to $56.6 billion. American Express reported a 4 percent growth from a year ago, to $53.7 billion. Capital One's chief executive Richard Fairbank told the Wall Street Journal the company is seeing "continuing signs of traction in our domestic card business."

Consumer behavior pointing to recovery

While economic conditions remain difficult, credit card companies and banks are responding to what they view as increased consumer confidence. More than 4 billion credit card offers were mailed last year, and credit card delinquencies have declined along with the unemployment rate.

While some of the fourth-quarter momentum can be attributed to the holiday shopping season, 2012 is also slated to see decent growth. The Wall Street Journal notes that Moody's Investors Service is predicting the six largest credit card issuers will see about 6 percent growth in combined average balances.

Forbes columnist Bill Hardekopf says consumers have learned to keep debt stable and pay their credit card bills on time, and are now comfortable increasing their credit card purchase balance. As spending continues, new credit cards and even more aggressive marketing tactics for existing brands targeting new members, especially those with good to excellent credit, are likely for 2012.