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Americans upped their borrowing in March

U.S. consumers swiped their credit cards more often in March after cutting back during the previous two months. The increase helped drive overall borrowing up by the most in more than a decade. 

The Federal Reserve says total consumer borrowing rose $21.4 billion in March — more than twice the $9.8 billion rise that Wall Street economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast. It marked the seventh straight monthly increase and the biggest since November 2001, when it climbed by $28 billion, according to the Fed's statistics. 

A measure of auto and student loans increased $16.2 billion. A separate gauge of mostly credit card debt rose $5.2 billion after declining in January and February. 

The increase pushed total borrowing up to a seasonally adjusted $2.54 trillion. That's slightly below the all-time high of $2.58 trillion reached in July 2008, eight months after the Great Recession began. Borrowing then plunged for more than two straight years before resuming its current upward trend. 

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.