Households trimming mortgage debt at slower rate

Mortgage balances on consumer credit reports continued to decline in the second quarter, but the pace may be slowing, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Mortgage balances overall dropped 0.2%, or roughly $20 billion from the previous quarter to just over $8 trillion. It represents 71% of total household debt in the country, which remained relatively flat over the previous year. Households shed 3%, or $20 billion, of home equity lines of credit debt from the previous quarter. According to the NY Fed, mortgage debt is now 8.3% and HELOC debt is 12.7% below their peaks in 2008. Overall consumer debt fell again in the second quarter, dropping 8.6%, or roughly $1.08 trillion, to a total of $11.4 trillion. Consumers currently hold the least amount of overall debt since the first quarter of 2007. Andrew Haughwout, the vice president of the research and statistics group at the NY Fed, said, overall, outstanding consumer debt essentially flattened in the second quarter. This is evidence the pace at which consumers are deleveraging has slowed since the financial crisis in 2008. “During the next few quarters we will gain a better understanding of whether this is a permanent or temporary break in the decline of total outstanding consumer debt,” Haughwout said. As a sign of this deleveraging, mortgage originations ended three straight quarters of increases, falling to $352 billion in new loans for the second quarter. Originations are 17% above the low in the fourth quarter of 2008 but still 3% below the level seen last year. Fewer homeowners are transition into delinquency, according to the NY Fed. Current borrowers now account for 90% of all outstanding mortgages. The last time that level was reached was in the fourth quarter of 2008. During the second quarter, roughly 284,000 borrowers fell into foreclosure, a 22.8% drop from the previous three months. Such a steep drop could be the continued delays in the process halted last year due to documentation issues. Write to Jon Prior. Follow him on Twitter @JonAPrior

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