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Why the Fed carefully treading even in a thriving US economy



In his state for the Union's speech this month, US President Donald Trump quoted with low unemployment and positive growth in the production of jobs as evidence of an "economic miracle" underway in America.

But the Federal Reserve, which pauses its plan to raise interest rates for now, is most likely to use other yard pins to measure US economic health.

For America it is striking on debt.

Total borrowing to cover mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and car loans rose for the 18th quarter in the last three months of 2018, reaching a record high of $ 13.5 billion. Particularly worrying: A new Federal Reserve Bank of New York report on Tuesday said more than 7 million Americans had reached serious default status on their auto loans.

Fed economists said the increase in criminal borrowers, defined as at least 90 days after payments, was "surprising" in terms of the strong labor market and economy.

The table below shows how big the US debt burden is.

AJ Bell

US consumers are "exposed to unexpected job losses or interest rate increases," says Russ Mold, investment director of the UK investment platform AJ Bell.

"This leaves the Fed with every reason to tread cautiously on rising surplus rates, as the higher debt spike gives the US much more sensitivity to even small changes in borrowing costs."

America has never been more indebted: at state level, the national debt burden surpassed $ 22 billion on Monday, the first time the total outstanding public debt had peaked that limit. As a percentage of gross domestic product, US debt is now around 215%, which may be a sign that the Fed is steering into what Mold calls a "Japanese debt trap."

Japan's government debt also stands at around 200% of GDP.

Read more: US budget deficit balloons to $ 779 billion this year, the highest since 2012, driven by Trump's tax law and massive budget agreement

Mold outlines the pickle where Fed's chairman Jerome Powell could find themselves:

"Powell's interest rate may be an early symptom of this dilemma, which has already become evident in the last three decades in Japan, and more recently in nations trying to raise interest rates but quickly backtrack, as economic growth began slowly, weighted down by an unwanted appreciation in local currency, higher interest payments or both. "Then there is the unemployment rate – hovering close to low since the 70s – which is likely to start rising, as Mold says can mean "Many Americans can be poorly prepared for windy winds that blow."


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