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Stimulus Check Update: Consumers Might Not Soon Slow Down Their Spending

New research suggests that the consumer spending boom that has recently supported the economy and perplexed experts may continue. Many households in the United States still have sufficient financial firepower to maintain their spending habits, according to researchers at the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of New York in a report published on Wednesday. This is despite high inflation over the past two years, the conclusion of the ultra-low rates of interest of the pandemic, as well as the return of payouts on national student loans.

Increased Interest Rates

The analysis clarifies a mystery that has recently perplexed experts and decision-makers. Federal Reserve officials increased interest rates to a 22-year high, increasing the cost of borrowing for all types of loans, including credit cards, mortgages, and auto loans. The rates are an attempt to rein in raging inflation by getting supply & demand back towards balance while discouraging borrowing and spending. But despite rising prices for necessities such as food & housing that have put a strain on budgets, many consumers have managed to ignore the increased interest rates and keep the cash registers ringing.

According to the researchers’ analysis of consumer credit data from the Fed and a poll of consumers, American households are generally in good financial position and intend to increase their spending over the coming year. A significant factor is that homeowners who refinanced their mortgages when interest rates hit historic lows at the time of the pandemic are in particularly good shape, having earned a staggering $400 billion by either refinancing for lower rates or cashing out on their home equity. And that’s on top of any “excess savings” people may have managed to accumulate during the pandemic, when spending possibilities were constrained and people were given stimulus checks (whether they needed them or not). On what proportion of the additional funds is still in people’s bank accounts, economists disagree. COVID-19 rules helped yet another group.

Return Of Payments On Student Loans

From the beginning of the epidemic until October, when the COVID-related deferment ended, borrowers of federal student loans were exempt from paying interest or making their usual monthly payments. The researchers calculated that the pause saved borrowers $260 billion. All of it has influenced customers’ willingness to spend. A consumer poll conducted by the New York Fed found that as of September, people planned to raise their expenditures by 5.3% through the following year, which is a significant rise from the 3.1% increase predicted in February 2020. In addition, a refund of payments on student loans might not significantly slow down customers.

Researchers from the New York Fed discovered that student loan borrowers planned to cut back on their spending by an average of $56 per month after payments resumed. This would have resulted in a monthly reduction in consumer spending of $1.6 billion, or just 0.1 percentage points. Other economists, however, have anticipated that the reintroduction of student loan payouts will have a more negative impact on budgets. One factor contributing to the New York Fed researchers’ more upbeat outlook is that 20% of student loan borrowers who were presently enrolled in a conventional repayment schedule and planned to switch to an income-driven repayment plan, like the latest SAVE plan, which significantly lowers payments every month for many borrowers, especially those with lower incomes, was revealed in their poll of 225 student loan borrowers.

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