U.S. bankruptcy filings drop 14 pct in 2012

Fri Jan 4, 2013 4:39pm EST

Jan 4 (Reuters) - The number of U.S. bankruptcy filings fell 14 percent in 2012 to the lowest level since the financial crisis of 2008, according to a report by the American Bankruptcy Institute (ABI), which forecast a further drop this year.

There were 1.19 million bankruptcies in 2012, down from 1.38 million in 2011, based on information compiled by Epiq Systems Inc. Noncommercial filings dropped 14 percent to 1.13 million and commercial filings fell 22 percent to 57,788.

Filings will likely continue to decrease in 2013 as U.S. households continue to cut their debt and interest rates remain low, said Samuel Gerdano, executive director of the ABI.

Despite the spike in filings following the financial crisis, U.S. recession and housing crash, the average number of filings over the past four years -- 1.39 million annually -- was generally low by recent standards.

In 2005, the U.S. Congress adopted changes to bankruptcy laws that were meant to require greater proof to file for bankruptcy. In the 10 years leading up the reform, there was an average of 1.50 million filings annually, according to data from the ABI.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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