Consumer loan delinquencies continue to rise

Consumer loan delinquencies edged up to another record high in the first quarter, according to data released Tuesday by the American Bankers Association.

A continued rise in unemployment has been the main culprit for the continued rise in delinquencies, the trade association said.

“The number one driver of delinquencies is job loss,” James Chessen, the ABA’s chief economist, said in a statement. “When people lose their jobs, they can’t pay their bills. Delinquencies won’t improve until companies start hiring again and we see a significant economic turnaround.”

The composite delinquency rate among eight types of closed-end installment loans rose to 3.23 percent in the January-March period, according to the ABA’s consumer credit delinquency bulletin.

That is the highest recorded since the ABA began tracking the rate in the mid 1970s and tops the previous record of 3.22 percent set in the last quarter of 2008.

The ABA said credit card delinquencies also moved higher, rising to 4.75 percent in the latest quarter from 4.52 percent in the fourth quarter last year. The credit card delinquency rate nearly reached the record high of 4.81 percent set in the second quarter of 2005.

While the total number of delinquent credit card loans failed to hit a record, the percentage of all outstanding debt on cards hit a record high of 6.60 percent in the first quarter, the report said.

The ABA defines a delinquent payment as one that is more than 30 days past due.

The composite delinquency rate incorporates payments data on auto, personal, home equity, home improvement, recreational vehicle, mobile home and marine loans. It excludes credit card delinquencies because cards are considered open-end revolving credit lines.

Among the group of close-end loans, mobile home loans had the highest delinquency rate at 3.70 percent. Home equity loan delinquencies were the second highest with 3.52 percent of customers at least 30 days behind on repayment.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.