AMERICAN BANKRUPTCY INSTITUTE REPORTS THAT AS OF 8/07, CREDIT CARD DEFAULTS ARE UP
August 30, 2007
CREDIT CARD DEFAULTS INCREASING
US consumers are defaulting on credit-card payments at a significantly higher rate than last year, raising the prospect of problems in the stricken US subprime mortgage market spreading to other types of consumer debt. Credit-card companies were forced to write off 4.58 per cent of payments as uncollectable in the first half of 2007, almost 30 per cent higher year-on-year. Late payments also rose, and the quarterly payment rate - a measure of cardholders' willingness and ability to repay their debt - fell for the first time in more than four years.
Analysts at Moody's, the rating agency, said the trend could be related to the slowdown in the US property market and a fall in the number of borrowers rolling their mortgage debt into new and cheaper home loans. The combination of higher interest rates and a softer real estate market diminished the attractiveness of mortgage refinancings in which many borrowers reduced their more expensive credit-card debt by drawing on the equity in their home," Moody's said.
But it is not clear that the borrowers defaulting on their credit cards are the same people defaulting on their subprime mortgages, it added. This is in part because underwriting standards in the credit-card sector have been more robust than in the mortgage industry.Also, many highly leveraged subprime borrowers, with little or no equity in their homes, may choose to default on a mortgage before risking being unable to charge everyday necessities to their credit card.
But Moody's said the rate of losses remained well below the 6.29 per cent average seen in 2004, a year before the US enacted a new law that made filing for personal bankruptcy more onerous.
The law led to a surge in individual filings and related credit card losses in 2005 as cash-strapped borrowers filed for bankruptcy before the rules came into effect.
Recent increases in credit card losses can in part be ascribed to a steady rise in personal bankruptcy filings since 2005. According to the Administrative Office of the US Courts, quarterly non-business bankruptcy filings have been rising since the first quarter of 2006.
Scott Hoyt, economist at Moody's Economy.com said: "Consumer credit quality will continue to deteriorate as debt burdens and financial obligations rise, house prices continue to fall, credit standards are tightened, labour markets loosen modestly, and gasoline and other energy prices remain high."
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