WASHINGTON, April 2 U.S. consumer delinquencies
on home-related loans fell in the fourth quarter of 2012, which
could indicate a slow recovery is underway in the housing
market, the American Bankers Association said on Tuesday.
Delinquencies on property improvement loans, home equity
loans and home equity lines of credit all fell during the
quarter, the group said.
It was the first time since the fourth quarter of 2011 that
delinquencies had dipped in all three categories, according to
the ABA, which also tracked late payments for bank-provided
credit cards, auto loans and other consumer loans.
The group does not track delinquency rates for traditional
mortgage payments. It defines a delinquency as a payment that is
30 days or more past due.
"While home-related delinquencies remain at elevated levels,
even one quarter of declines could signal the start of a slow
but steady improvement," James Chessen, chief economist at the
ABA, said in a statement.
"Falling delinquencies are another indicator of the housing
market's nascent recovery," he said.
Other pieces of data have also pointed to a strengthening
housing market. Last week Standard & Poor's said its S&P/Case
Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas rose 8.1
percent in January from a year ago, its biggest rise since June
And Corelogic released a report showing the number of
foreclosed U.S. homes that were sold or seized by lenders in
February fell to the lowest level in almost five-and-a-half
The ABA's report also said bank card delinquencies fell to
an 18-year low, and a composite ratio covering late payments in
eight additional loan categories dipped.
Chessen said the improvements show consumers attempting to
reduce their debt levels, which could lead to more consistent
economic growth in the future.
But challenges remain as federal government spending cuts
known as "sequestration" gradually take effect, resulting in
furloughs of some workers, and as healthcare and other costs
rise for businesses, Chessen said.
"Make no mistake about it, a great deal of uncertainty still
lingers over this economy," he said.
The composite delinquency ratio fell to 1.99 percent of all
accounts in the fourth quarter, below the 15-year average, the
ABA said. However, delinquencies rose in three of the eight loan
categories counted in the composite.
Bank card delinquencies, which are not part of the
composite, fell to 2.47 percent, the lowest since the third
quarter of 1994, from 2.75 percent in the third quarter, the ABA