Numbers to Watch & Where to Find Them
You can follow the credit bubble as it pops and splatters its way through our financial institutions at http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases, where the Federal Reserve posts monthly reports that track the effects of the credit crisis on America's financial infrastructure.
If the flow of money is the fuel of American capitalism, then these reports are the fuel gauges. The Fed's unglamorous reports give us hard data on how much money is coursing through the American economy.
- Monthly G.19 Reports. These are the reports on consumer borrowing, both traditional loans (such as car loans) and "revolving debt," also known as credit cards. Each month, the Fed lists the total amount Americans have on our credit card bills. The amounts are staggering -- $968 billion in credit card debt, more than 7% higher than just last year -- and show no signs of shrinking. Read more at http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g19/.
- The "charge off" rate. This is the percent of loans, including credit card balances, that the lender has written off as uncollectible. The latest figures show that banks are giving up on 5.47% of the credit card amounts owed to them. This figure is the highest since the current bankruptcy law took effect, with the exception of a brief flurry of bankruptcies before the passage of the law. More information here: http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/chargeoff/.
- The savings rate. This data shows how much Americans are saving each year. It's been hovering between zero and 2% for five years: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/PSAVERT. For other Fed research data on personal spending, see http://www.bea.gov/national/index.htm#personal.
- The bankruptcy filing rate. How many people are filing for bankruptcy, and for what kind (Chapter 7 or 13) and where (Statistics by District). This data is kept by the US court system, updated monthly and can be found here: http://www.uscourts.gov/bnkrpctystats/statistics.htm.
You can get other important numbers and information from non-governmental sources, including:
- RealtyTrac, which offers one-stop shopping for the latest foreclosure statistics and news
- InsideARM.com, which offers an excellent, well-organized archive of timely articles on economic data affecting the debt and credit industry. The link below is for Credit Card news, but be sure to hover your cursor over the News & Analysis link for a list of other areas you can search: http://www.insidearm.com/go/tags/credit%20card.
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