U.S. November Consumer Borrowing Rises $12.3 Billion, Fed Says By Courtney Schlisserman and Vincent Del Giudice Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Borrowing by U.S. households rose in November by the most in three months as Americans loaded up on credit-card debt to purchase gifts at the start of the holiday- shopping season. Consumer credit, or non-mortgage loans to individuals, increased $12.3 billion during the month to $2.39 trillion after a $1.3 billion decrease in October, the Federal Reserve said today in Washington. Credit increased at a 6.2 percent annual rate after falling at a 0.6 percent pace in October. The increase suggests consumer spending, which accounts for about two-thirds of the economy, gained strength at the end of the year. Retail sales in November rose by the most in four months as shoppers took advantage of early holiday discounts, government figures showed last month. ``Consumer spending is going to add considerably to real growth in the fourth quarter, aided in large part by sharply lower energy prices,'' Joshua Shapiro, an economist at MFR Inc. in New York, said before the report. Economists forecast consumer credit would rise $5.2 billion in November after an originally reported $1.2 billion decline in October, according to the median of 34 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Revolving debt that includes credit cards rose $8.6 billion in November, the most since May, today's report showed. Non- revolving debt, such as loans to buy cars and mobile homes, increased $3.8 billion. Retail sales jumped 1 percent in November, more than economists forecast, according to a Dec. 13 report from the Commerce Department. Purchases excluding motor vehicles rose 1.1 percent, the most since January. December Retail Sales Purchases probably rose by another 0.7 percent in December, according to a survey of economists ahead of a Jan. 12 report. The increases would represent the strongest back-to-back sales gains in almost a year. Consumers are drawing confidence from an expanding labor market. Employers added 167,000 jobs last month, more than economists expected, following a November gain of 154,000 that was bigger than previously estimated. The jobless rate held at 4.5 percent in December. Workers' average hourly earnings rose 0.5 percent, the most in eight months. Economic growth slowed in the third quarter to a 2 percent annual rate, dragged down by the biggest decline in homebuilding in 15 years. The pace of growth slipped from 2.6 percent in the second quarter. Consumer spending has held up in the face of the housing slowdown, with personal consumption rising 2.7 percent in the third quarter and probably at a higher pace in the fourth quarter, Cathy Minehan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said in a speech Jan. 5 in Hartford, Connecticut. `Moderate Growth' ``Our best guess at the Boston Fed is that 2007 will bring continued moderate growth, with GDP at or a bit below potential, unemployment likely remaining below 5 percent and core inflation gradually declining,'' Minehan said. The Fed has kept its key interest rate unchanged at 5.25 percent for four straight meetings, betting that a slowing economy will help bring inflation under control. Sales of cars and light trucks in the U.S. fell to a 16.1 million annual rate in November from 16.2 million in October and 16.6 million in September, according to industry figures. Ford Motor Co., the nation's second-largest automaker, is cutting 40,000 jobs in North America and plans to close nine factories in the region by next year. Outside of cars, consumer spending is on the rise. MasterCard Inc., the second-biggest credit-card company, announced on Nov. 1 that third-quarter profit topped analysts' estimates, climbed 82 percent to $193 million. Purchase, New York-based MasterCard increased fees and enticed customers to use the cards for smaller purchases.