Expectations of credit access among U.S. consumers improved in recent months even as their predictions for inflation held steady, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
"Perceptions of current credit access relative to a year ago and future credit access relative to today have slightly improved in the last month, reversing a modest deterioration from September to November," the Fed district bank said.
Consumers' inflation expectations varied little from June until December, the New York Fed said. The median prediction for one-year ahead inflation was 3.1 percent last month, more than triple the 0.9 percent rate in the 12-month period ended in November as measured by the personal consumption expenditures price index. The Fed has set an inflation target of 2 percent.
Households' outlook for greater credit availability and faster price acceleration bolsters the case for the Fed to continue tapering stimulus. Policymakers last month voted to cut their monthly bond purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion, citing improvement in the job market.
Fed officials saw declining economic gains from bond buying and voiced concern about future risks to financial market stability, according to minutes of the Dec. 17-18 meeting by the Federal Open Market Committee released last week.
Income growth expectations were little changed at about 2 percent and the mean likelihood of finding a job within three months -- if one were to lose one's job -- was steady at 46 percent, the survey showed.
The odds of not being able to make a minimum debt payment in the next three months was 14.9 percent in December, down from 17.2 percent in September, the New York Fed said.
The survey is conducted with a nationally representative rotating panel of about 1,200 household heads, the district bank said. The New York Fed said it plans to release survey results on the second Monday of each month.