Data through January 2016, released recently by S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian for the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices, shows the composite rate at 0.96 percent in January, down one basis point from the previous month. The bank card default rate increased three basis points in January, recording a default rate of 2.52 percent. The first mortgage and auto loan default rates were unchanged for January, reporting default rates of 0.84 percent and 1.04 percent, respectively.
Three of the five major cities saw their default rates increase during the month of January. Los Angeles reported a default rate of 0.72 percent, up seven basis points from the December default rate. Chicago’s default rate increased two basis points from December, reporting a 1.02 percent default rate in January. Dallas reported a default rate of 1.11 percent in January, up one basis point from the prior month. New York recorded a default rate of 1.04 percent for the second consecutive month. Miami reported a default rate decrease of 27 basis points in January with a default rate of 1.17 percent.
“Nationally, consumer default rates were little changed in January,” says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director & Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Bank card defaults rose from November to December and again to January, However, the series established a new low point in November and remains quite low compared to its recent history. Moreover, the small decline in first mortgage defaults offset any damage in bank cards. On a regional basis, the five cities noted in the release bounced around, but none appeared to be warning of future difficulties.
The economy is taking on something of a split personality. The financial markets are suffering falling prices and a lot of volatility so far in 2016. The stock market is down about one percent, interest rates remain extremely low despite the Fed’s action in December, and concerns about corporate earnings and credit are widespread. At the same time, home prices continue to climb, new homebuilding is rebounding and auto sales have been quite strong. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.9 percent in January. Consumers do not appear to be overly worried about the stock market; their spending patterns haven’t collapsed. Given further modest job growth and continued low inflation, there is no basis for near term worries over consumer spending
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