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Updates in consumer credit defaults show a composite rate of 0.93 percent in March, down four basis points from the previous month, according to the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices. The first mortgage default reported a 0.77 percent rate for March, down seven basis points from the prior month. Auto loan defaults recorded a 1.02 percent default rate, down three basis points from February. The bank card default rate increased 36 basis points in March, recording a default rate of 2.92 percent.

Four of the five major cities saw their default rates increase during the month of March. Miami reported a default rate of 1.15 percent, up eight basis points from February. Los Angeles recorded a default rate of 0.81 percent in March, up five basis points from the prior month. New York reported a default rate of 0.99 percent, a two basis point increase from the previous month. Chicago reported a default rate increase of one basis point, posting a 1.03 percent default rate for March. Dallas was the only city to report a default rate decrease, with a 0.75 percent default rate, down 28 basis points from February.

“The continuing low rates of consumer credit defaults in mortgages, auto, and bank card loans are positive signs for the economy, “ says David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Large mortgage debts followed by rapidly rising defaults in all kinds of consumer credit were key causes of the financial crisis. Conditions today are much improved; not only are defaults down, but outstanding mortgage balances were about 12 percent below the peak seen in the first quarter of 2008. Debt service ratios are close to the record lows set in the last two years as well. This all suggests that consumer spending should continue to support modest economic growth.

“The rate of bank card defaults is both greater and more volatile than mortgage defaults. Behind these figures are further differences in these borrowing patterns. Outstanding balances for bank cards, as measured by the Federal Reserve’s figures on revolving credit, were up 5.2 percent in 2015 compared to an increase of 1.0 percent for mortgages on one-to-four family residences. Bank card balances, which surged in the first half of 2014, leveled off somewhat until the start of 2015, and then accelerated again through the end of last year. They are down slightly for the first two months of 2016. Mortgage balances are quite different; until the last quarter of 2014, outstanding mortgage balances declined and then saw a small increase in 2015. These tell different stories about consumer behavior. While bank card balances and defaults saw increases, consumer prices were flat, indicating that the growth in balances reflects increased spending. Mortgage balances barely grew even though home prices, as measured by the S&P/CaseShiller Home Price Index, are rising 5 percent-6 percent annually. The substantial majority of home sales are of existing homes, which means mortgages are being paid off at the same time new mortgages are being written.”

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