Keeping the party going: U.S. private debt soars

Debt Trillion Crisis Economists

As Washington is struggling with debt and all its political ramifications, American companies and consumers are embracing it, running up record amounts in 2013.

Whether it's corporate loans, all quality levels of bonds or simple consumer credit, the debt party is back on in the U.S., whether it's in the boardroom or the living room.

Amid the financial crisis of 2008, the U.S. went into what economists call a "debt deleveraging cycle" - akin to a credit hangover, where the party has ended and everyone there decides to quit drinking cold turkey.

Somebody has clearly turned the lights back on, though, and corporate and individual buying is soaring.

Consumer credit, for instance, surged past the $3 trillion mark in the second quarter of 2013 and continues on an upward trajectory, according to the most recent numbers from the Federal Reserve.

At $3.04 trillion, the total is up 22 percent over the past three years. Student loans are up a whopping 61 percent.

Total household debt, according to the Fed's flow of funds report, is at $13 trillion, nearly back to its pre-crisis level in 2007 and a shade below government debt of $15 trillion.

"We have not solved (anything) when it comes to the deleveraging myth," said Michael Pento, president of Pento Portfolio Strategies. "We have learned nothing."

While the specter of another debt crisis might seem scary, some economists tout it as a healthy sign of a recovery. "In a moment of crisis, that's going to come back to haunt you," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. "As long as you can support that debt through growth, it's really not a major concern."

That's a big "if," and the prospects of rising interest rates could force borrowers back into their foxholes.

But with the U.S. economy growing at a steady, if unspectacular, 2.5 percent rate, economists are mostly dismissive about another debt crisis hitting ( via ).

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