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Consumers Fall Behind on Loans at Record Pace

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Posted on 07 Jul 2009

Soaring U.S. unemployment and a shrinking economy drove delinquencies on credit card debt and home equity loans to all-time highs in the first quarter as a record number of cash-strapped consumers fell behind on their bills.

Delinquencies on the value of all card debt soared to a record 6.60 percent from 5.52 percent in the fourth quarter as more cardholders relied on plastic to meet day-to-day expenses, the American Bankers Association said.

Late payments on home equity loans rose to 3.52 percent from 3.03 percent, and on home equity lines of credit climbed to 1.89 percent from 1.46 percent.

A broader gauge showing late payments on eight categories of loans rose for a fourth straight quarter to a new record, edging up to 3.23 percent from 3.22 percent. That rate actually understates consumer pain because it excludes credit cards. The ABA tracks loan payments that are at least 30 days late.

"The biggest driver is job losses," ABA Chief Economist James Chessen said in an interview. "When people lose their jobs or work fewer hours, it makes it that much harder to meet their obligations. Unfortunately, we're going to see higher job losses in the next year, and I expect elevated delinquencies."

The ABA represents most large U.S. banks and credit card companies. Tuesday's data are a bad sign for them as they prepare to report second-quarter results starting next week.


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