Home Equity Loans See 3.52% Delinquency Rate in Q1

With record waves of job loss pushing unemployment up to 9.5% in the US, consumers are finding keeping current on mortgage payments and other debt increasingly difficult, if delinquency rates are any indication. In the first quarter alone of 2009, more than 2m workers lost their jobs, according to the American Bankers Association‘s (ABA) Consumer Credit Delinquency Bulletin. The ABA found the composite ratio — which tracks delinquencies in eight closed-end installment loan categories including property improvement, auto, RV, mobile home and personal loan delinquencies of 30 days or more — rose to 3.23% from 3.22% in the previous quarter. “The number one driver of delinquencies is job loss,” ABA chief economist James Chessen says today in a press statement. “When people lose their jobs, they can’t pay their bills. Delinquencies won’t improve until companies start hiring again and we see a significant economic turnaround,” although job growth is not likely to improve in the foreseeable future, he adds. “However, many people are taking greater control of their finances by cutting spending, lowering debt and saving more money.” Reflecting continued weakness in the housing sector, delinquencies for the home equity category also hit record highs: Home equity loan delinquencies rose 49 bps to 3.52% of accounts, while home equity lines of credit delinquencies rose 43 bps to 1.89% of accounts. “Even if home prices stop falling later this year,” Chessen adds, “unemployment will keep home equity delinquencies high for some time.” Write to Diana Golobay.

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