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Mortgage defaults rise, setting an alarming trend

Mortgage defaults increased nationwide in the fourth quarter as more Americans began to default on all types of consumer debt.

The S&P Dow Jones/Experian credit default indices made this alarming trend more transparent in data released Tuesday.

The indices national composite, which measures all consumer defaults, increased for three consecutive months in a row, reaching a 1.72% default rate in December. This compares to a default rate of 1.64% in November and a much lower rate of 1.55% in October.

The first-mortgage default rate followed the same pattern, increasing from 1.47% in October to 1.58% in November, and then edging up again to 1.68% last month.

"The national composite rate was 1.72% in December, eight basis points above the November rate and 26 basis points above September’s post-recession low," said David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee for S&P Dow Jones Indices.  "It was primarily driven by the first mortgage rate at 1.68% in December, ten basis points above the previous month's rate and 32 basis points above September's post-recession low."

From its historic low of 0.62% posted last month, the second-mortgage default rate reached 0.69% in December.

The surge in mortgage default rates mirrors a trend already occuring in the national composite of all consumer defaults. While all five cities covered by the report showed increases in their overall default rates in December, all five cities also remain below default rates posted a year ago in December 2011, said Blitzer.

Click on the table below to see the default composite indices for the five Metropolitan Statistical Areas provided by S&P/Experian.

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