WASHINGTON -- Consumers kept a watchful eye on their debt and boosted their borrowing at an annual rate of 1.8 percent in December, the Federal Reserve reported Monday. That represented a $3.1 billion increase in borrowing from November -- considerably smaller than the $8 billion over-the-month rise that some economists were forecasting. The increase in borrowing, however, still pushed total consumer credit outstanding to a record $2.1 trillion in December. The Fed's report includes credit card debt and loans for such things as boat, cars and mobile homes. It does not include real-estate loans, such as home mortgages or home-equity loans.
NEW YORK -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg staked out a compromise position in the gay-marriage debate: He would publicly support gay marriage, but challenge a court decision allowing it. Fellow Republicans are calling him a Democrat in disguise, and gays are calling him a coward. The issue came to the fore last week, when a judge in New York state's trial-level court ruled Friday that the state's ban on gay marriages is unconstitutional. The case was brought by five gay couples who sued after being denied marriage licenses by the city. New York is among the few states without laws explicitly defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
WASHINGTON -- Nextel Communications Inc. agreed Monday to a plan by federal regulators aimed at ending interference from Nextel cell phones that disrupts public safety communication systems in hundreds of communities. The Federal Communications Commission will give Reston, Va.-based Nextel a new piece of broadcast spectrum in return for the company vacating other spectrum and paying to reconfigure the airwaves it currently occupies. There have been no reports that the interference caused injuries or deaths.
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A Kurdish ticket pulled into second place ahead of U.S.-backed Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's candidates in Iraq's national election after votes were released Monday from the Kurdish self-governing area of the north. First election returns from the Sunni heartland confirmed on Monday that many Sunnis stayed away from ballot box, leaving the field to Shiite and Kurdish candidates.