Managing Debt

Consumers’ Default Rates Climbed Last Month

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The rate at which consumers fall behind on their various credit accounts ticked upward in October after several months of declines, indicating that borrowers might be struggling a bit more these days.

The total default rate across four major types of credit rose slightly last month, to 1.55 percent of all outstanding balances from 1.46 percent in September, according to the latest monthly Standard and Poor’s/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices. In all, defaults increased across three of the four types of credit tracked – with only those for credit cards falling – snapping a streak of nine consecutive months of drops in industry-wide defaults.

Consumers defaulted more on their first and second mortgages, as well as auto loans, the report said. First mortgages in particular saw the largest spike, rising to 1.47 percent from September’s 1.36 percent, but that was still down from the previous year’s 2.08 percent. The next-largest increase came for auto financing, which jumped slightly to 1.14 percent from 1.11 percent, and is still somewhat close to October 2011′s 1.22 percent. Finally, second mortgages ticked up one basis point to 0.65 percent of all such loans, down about 50 percent from the previous year’s 1.29 percent.

“After three quarters of declining consumer credit default rates, national composite increased in October,” said David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee for Standard and Poor’s Dow Jones Indices. “Overall consumer credit quality remains healthy. Looking across our 10 headline indices, all are at levels typical of the pre-crisis period of the early 2000s. Only one – bank card – shows default rate above 2.5 percent and even that hit the recent low, which is close to its eight-year historic minimum.”

In fact, credit cards slipped to just 3.68 percent, the lowest level since the recession began, from 3.7 percent in September, the report said. That was also down from October 2011′s 4.85 percent.

Further, the indices found that of the nation’s five largest metropolitan areas, three saw default rates fall, and both Chicago and Los Angeles slipped to post-recession lows, the report said. Only New York and Dallas had increased rates on a month-over-month basis.

[Credit Cards: Research and compare credit cards at Credit.com.]

Toward the end of the year, consumers tend to increase their borrowing efforts as a means of financing their holiday shopping, which in turn leads to seasonal increases in debt, delinquency and default.

Image: Images_of_Money, via Flickr

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