NEW YORK, April 2 (Reuters) - More U.S. consumers have fallen behind on loan payments than ever before, and the problem may worsen as millions more find themselves out of a job, a study released Thursday shows.
According to the American Bankers Association, which represents most large U.S. banks and credit card companies, the percentage of consumer loans at least 30 days late rose to a seasonally-adjusted 3.22 percent in the October-to-December period from 2.9 percent in the prior quarter.
The ABA said the fourth-quarter rate was the highest since it began tracking the data in 1974, with delinquencies rising in nearly every category. It said these credit trends are unlikely to improve before 2010. Many consider the deep recession the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“Job losses have really hurt the economy and will continue to inflict pain for several months,” James Chessen, the ABA’s chief economist, said in an interview. “The greater the losses are, the more severe an impact it has on all credit markets.”
The ABA study covers direct auto, indirect auto, closed-end home equity, home improvement, marine, mobile home, personal, and recreational vehicle loans. It excludes bank credit card and education loans. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; editing by John Wallace)
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