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Consumer borrowing rises for 4th month in January

WASHINGTON — American consumers borrowed more in January to purchase new cars but were once again frugal with credit card purchases, offering a mixed sign of their confidence in the economy.

The Federal Reserve says total borrowing rose at an annual rate of $5 billion in January, or 2.5 percent, the fourth consecutive gain. Strong car sales drove the increase. The category that includes auto loans rose 6.9 percent.

But credit card debt fell 6.4 percent in January, the 28 decline in the past 29 months. Credit card spending rose December for the first time since the financial crisis.

Combined, total consumer credit equaled $2.41 trillion, a slight 0.7 percent above a three-year low hit in September. Consumer borrowing is 6.6 percent below the high hit in July 2008.