WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers increased their borrowing in December by $9.7 billion, as Americans took out loans to buy autos or finance their educations. But credit card use declined for the third-consecutive month. The Federal Reserve reported Friday that the rise in total borrowing in December was down from a gain of $13.9 billion in November. The category that includes credit cards fell by $2.95 billion in December. That category has been up only three months out of the past year as households eased off on their borrowing in the midst of a pandemic-induced recession. Consumer borrowing is a closely watched indicator of the willingness of households to borrow to bolster their spending, which accounts for 70% of economic activity.