Ruth Simon at The Wall Street Journal writes:
|Interest rates continue to tumble for the U.S. Treasury, companies and home buyers alike. But for a large portion of 381 million U.S. credit-card accounts, borrowing rates have been moving only one way: up.
And average rates are likely to climb further soon. New credit-card rules that took effect Sunday limit banks' ability to charge penalty fees. They come on top of rule changes earlier this year restricting issuers' ability to adjust rates on the fly. Issuers responded by pushing card rates to their highest level in nine years.
In the second quarter, the average interest rate on existing cards reached 14.7%, up from 13.1% a year earlier, according to research firm Synovate, a unit of Aegis Group PLC. That was the highest level since 2001.
Those figures look especially stark when measuring the gap between the prime rate—the benchmark against which card rates are set—and average credit-card rates. The current difference of 11.45 percentage points is the largest in at least 22 years, Synovate estimates.
About this, Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism opines:
|Even though banks are getting all kinds of bennies from the Fed and regulators, such as a nice steep yield curve and lots of regulatory forbearance (econ-speak for extend and pretend), they are still out to extract a pound of flesh from the retail borrower. Since that has been a core element of their business model for the last decade, it is probably not so surprising that they are loath to give that practice up.
Now some will argue, correctly, that consumers need to delever. But guess what? They are paring debt levels, including credit cards. The number of open accounts has fallen by over 20% since the peak, as has the balance outstanding (over 6%). And not all of this has been voluntary. Banks have been shutting accounts and cutting credit lines.
But (drumroll) increasing interest rates, particularly when the banks are getting very sizeable subsidies, means that more of the money consumers pay to credit card companies goes to interest, less to reducing principal (of course, the banks will maintain that they are merely recouping lost income from penalties, since new credit card rules have curbed abusive practices).
A more serious issue is that not all consumer debt is consumer debt. Credit cards have long been an important source of funding for small businesses.
At Daily Kos on this date in 2004:
|Josh Marshall applies the smackdown to Bob Dole, so I don't have to:
Notice that even though much was made of Dole's military service during the 1996 election (comparing it to Clinton's draft avoidance), Democrats were much too classy to try and smear Dole's war record or question the validty of his first Purple Heart.