Credit card spending was down for the first time in 2013 in March, according to the Census Bureau's monthly consumer credit report.
Consumer credit card debt fell $1.7 billion in March to $846 billion. Credit card use remained well under the $1.022 trillion in credit card debt carried by Americans at its peak in July of 2008.
"The month-to-month volatility doesn't change the picture," UBS Securities economist Sam Coffin, told Bloomberg in advance of the figures. "Household balance sheets have been improving quite a bit. Gains in home and equity prices are helping."
Overall borrowing increased at a lower rate than analysts' forecasts, up $8 billion from February 2013 to a total debt load of $2.81 trillion. The majority of borrowing was driven by student and auto loans. Non-revolving debt, which encompasses both loans for tuition and car purchases, increased $9.68 billion month-to-month.
Though the government numbers do not distinguish between auto and student loans, Barclay's economist Cooper Howes believes that 80 percent of the increase in March was pushed by student loans, according to USA Today.
Consumer spending underpins 70 percent of the economy and is currently gaining strength from solid early year gains in the housing and stock markets, reports Bloomberg.