Treasury secretary will act on debt limit, Congress told

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told Congress on Friday that he will start using the package of emergency measures he has used in the past to keep the federal government from going over the debt limit next week.

The debt limit has been suspended for the past year, meaning that Treasury could borrow as much as it needed to keep the government running. But the limit will go back into effect on March 15 at whatever level of debt exists at that point.

Various measures Lew can employ could put off the date the debt ceiling will have to be raised until October or November. The nation’s debt currently stands at $18.1 trillion.

Consumer borrowing climbs by $11.6 billion in January

Consumers increased their borrowing in January at the slowest pace in more than a year with borrowing on credit cards actually declining for the second time in the last three months.

The Federal Reserve reported Friday that consumer borrowing expanded $11.6 billion in January following a $17.9 billion gain in December. It was the smallest monthly increase since borrowing rose by $8.3 billion in November 2013. Even though the January increase was more modest than the gains over the past year, it still pushed total borrowing to a fresh record of $3.33 trillion, an increase of 6.9 percent over the past year.

U.S. trade deficit falls 8.3% in January to $41.8 billion

The U.S. trade deficit in January dropped sharply as both exports and imports fell.

The Commerce Department said Friday that the deficit fell 8.3 percent to $41.8 billion in January from $45.6 billion in December. The shrinking trade gap reflected a drop in exports, which fell $5.6 billion to $189.4 billion. Imports fell $9.4 billion to $231.1 billion.

– From news service reports