WASHINGTON --- Consumers borrowed more in January to purchase new cars but were once again frugal with their credit cards, offering a mixed sign of their confidence in the economy.
Borrowing rose 2.5 percent, or by $5 billion, the Federal Reserve said Monday. It was the fourth consecutive monthly gain and it increased total consumer debt to $2.41 trillion.
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 28th decline in 29 months -- to lowest level since September 2004. Americans had increased their use of plastic in December for the first time since the financial crisis. But they cut back the next month, even though a Social Security tax cut is giving most households an extra $1,000 to $2,000 this year.
"People are still pretty cautious about using their credit cards," said David Wyss, the chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York. "We are coming out of a deep recession in which a lot of people got caught with too much debt."
Consumer debt is 0.7 percent above a three-year low hit in September. It is 6.6 percent below the peak hit in July 2008.
Analysts are predicting that consumers will borrow more in the months ahead, responding to the strengthening economy, a brighter outlook for jobs and the tax cut.
Japan halts use of vaccine after deaths
TOKYO --- Japan has temporarily stopped using vaccines from U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. and Sanofi-Aventis SA of France while it investigates the deaths of four children who were inoculated, the health ministry said Monday.
The decision to halt the vaccines against pneumonia, some types of meningitis and other infections was made Saturday. The government is hearing from experts at a meeting today, the health ministry said.
The four children, from younger than six months to 2 years old, died between March 2 and March 4. The deaths occurred the same day to three days after the vaccines were administered, the ministry said.
The vaccination began in Japan about a year to two years ago. The vaccines have been administered to 1 million to 1.5 million children, according to the ministry.
Pfizer in Japan said the company was cooperating with the investigation on the Prevenar vaccine. The U.S. has been using Prevenar for about 10 years, the company said.
United Continental won't add flights
CHICAGO --- United Continental Holdings Inc. is scrapping plans to add flights this year and says it will drop unprofitable routes because of rising fuel prices.
The announcement from the world's largest airline company Monday is the latest example of airlines shifting plans because of the run-up in oil prices. Southwest Airlines matched an industrywide fare increase, and Frontier Airlines said it would reduce growth plans.