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Surveys reveal rising credit card balances, despite pessimism about the economy

By , CardRatings contributor
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As summer winds down, Americans have braced themselves for some economic turbulence, according to a pair of consumer financial indices. More than half the respondents in Discover's poll of more than 8,000 consumers said they expect the economy to worsen over the coming months. That figure arrives on the heels of an Equifax report that estimates the first year-over-year increase in credit card balances in five years.

Discover survey shows pressure on middle class

Just 17 percent of consumers describe the economy's condition as "good" or "excellent," according to the August edition of the Discover U.S. Spending Monitor. Although 51 percent of respondents indicated they felt the economy was getting worse, the figure crept a percentage point higher for consumers making between $40,000 and $75,000 per year.

However, some of that pessimism could result from an early start to back-to-school season in many parts of the country. Researchers found that households with children reported less money for discretionary spending at the end of August, but an overall decline in the number of consumers who expected to spend more in September. Most of the survey's other indicators remained relatively stable.

Equifax tracks drop in delinquencies despite credit card expansion

Meanwhile, data from an Equifax analysis of American credit reports shows a 6-percent gain in the amount of credit available to American credit card customers when compared with the first portion of 2012. Consumers added more than $77.7 billion to their available credit lines, while bringing total outstanding balances to $536.5 billion.

Despite adding $3.2 billion in new charges to revolving credit card accounts, most Americans have remained in control of their debt. According to the Atlanta-based credit reporting agency, seriously delinquent accounts made up just 1.86 percent of credit card issuers' portfolios during the first five months of 2013. The 11-percent drop in year-over-year delinquencies continues a longer-term trend of consumers taking responsibility for lines of credit that weren't wiped out after 2008's credit crunch.

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