A Lighter Ball and Chain
During the boom years, Americans borrowed andbinged. The hangover has been long and throbbing,but after five years of water and aspirin, householdfinances are looking healthier. In the fourth quarterof 2012 the average "debt-service ratio" for Americanhouseholds fell to its lowest level since recordsbegan in 1980. That is, households were spendingless of their disposable income on paying intereston mortgages, consumer loans and other types of credit than at any point in the past threedecades.
New figures released by the Federal Reserve show a small rise in the first quarter of 2013，butthe household debt-service burden appears to have bottomed out.
People have been paying down unmanageable old debt and taking out fewer and smaller newloans. Rising house prices have also helped homeowners, at least recently. CoreLogic, a researchfirm, reports that 1.7m households have escaped negative equity over the past year, the valueof their home now exceeds their mortgage debt. Remarkably, household net worth, at $70.3trillion, has hit an all time high (though relative to the overall economy it remains below levelsin previous booms).