WASHINGTON — American consumers increased their borrowing at a slower pace in January, as the category that covers credit cards recorded the smallest increase in three years.

The Federal Reserve says the January gain of $13.9 billion followed a $19.2 billion increase in December and a November surge of $30.9 billion.

In January, borrowing in the credit card category edged up $701 million. That followed an increase of $6.1 billion in December and was the smallest monthly advance since a gain of $605 million in February 2015. Borrowing in the category that covers auto loans and student loans rose by $13.2 billion in January, basically matching the $13.1 billion increase in December.

Consumer borrowing is a key metric for evidence of strength in consumer spending.

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