While student, auto and credit card balances are at or near record levels, housing debt is shrinking, credit quality is weakening a bit and lending standards, at least in some sectors, are tightening. What it all portends for consumer lending in 2019 is anyone's guess, but one thing is clear: Overextended borrowers can't definitively count on tax refunds to bail them out this year.

Total household debt hit another record high in the fourth quarter of 2018, but the pace of growth slowed as demand weakened somewhat and lenders appeared to be slightly tightening their credit standards.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York said in a report last week that household debt reached $13.5 trillion at Dec. 31, or 21% above the post-financial-crisis low hit in the second quarter of 2013. It marked the eighth consecutive quarter that consumer debt hit an all-time high and the 18th consecutive quarter that debt had increased from the prior quarter.

Yet total debt climbed just 3% year over year, compared to 4.5% in 2017, and was up just .2% from the prior quarter, versus an increase of 1.6% between the second and third quarters. Quarter-over-quarter loan growth had not been that weak since mid-2015.

Read more in American Banker.