S&P/Experian: Auto Loan Defaults Sink to Lowest Level in Eight Years

June 20, 2012

NEW YORK — The auto loan default rate hit its lowest in the eight-year history of the SP/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices.

The firms reported this week the default rate for vehicle contracts ticked lower to 1.03 percent in May, down from April’s reading of 1.07 percent.

Auto loan performance was just one of the highlights of the May report. The indices produced by SP and Experian showed that all loan types saw a decrease in default rates, most for the fifth consecutive month.

The comprehensive measure of changes in consumer credit defaults revealed four loan types posted their lowest rates since the end of the recession as the national composite reading declined to 1.62 percent in May from its 1.86 percent April rate.

Analysts determined the first mortgage default rate decreased from April’s 1.76 percent to May’s 1.50 percent. The second mortgage default rate declined from 0.93 percent in April to 0.88 percent in May while the Bank card default rate dropped to 4.35 percent in May from April’s level of 4.49 percent.

“May 2012 data show continued improvements in consumer credit quality,” said David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee for SP Indices.

“Consumer default rates continue to fall and we are reaching new lows across all the loan types,” Blitzer continued. “In the last recession, default rates peaked in the spring of 2009, since then the decline has been bumpy but consistent. Only bank cards remain above their pre-recession lows.

“The first mortgage default rate fell by more than a quarter of a percent (26 basis points) in May compared to April and is the lowest rate since May 2007,” he went on to say. “The second mortgage rate also fell during the month, by 5 basis points, and is at a seven-year low. The bank card rate dropped by 14 basis points, and is at its lowest since the end of 2008. The auto loans default rate hits its lowest rate in our history of these data.”

When Blitzer considered the index data based on geography, the findings showed upbeat trends, as well.

“All the five cities we cover saw their default rates drop, and all five are at post-recession lows,” he declared.

For the fifth consecutive month, analysts found Chicago experienced a decline, moving from 2.84 percent back in December 2011 to 1.85 percent in May.

“That’s almost a one percentage point decline and a new low,” Blitzer pointed out.

Meanwhile, the firm noted Miami and New York both fell for the fourth consecutive month. Miami dropped by 59 basis points from an April reading of 3.14 percent to May’s level of 2.55 percent.

“While still the highest default rate, Miami hit a post-recession low,” Blitzer emphasized. “To put this into further perspective, the high for Miami was 18.9 percent in May 2009, three years ago.”

Analysts mentioned New York decreased 17 basis points over the month from 1.78 percent in April to 1.61 percent in May. They added Dallas hits its lowest rate in its eight years of history, moving down by 31 basis points from 1.25 percent in April to 0.94 percent in May and retains the lowest rate among the five cities they follow.

SP and Experian also noted Los Angeles posted a moderate decline from 1.88 percent in April to 1.82 percent in May.

Blitzer touched on one other point from the index findings.

“Data from the Federal Reserve show that consumer borrowing through bank cards and auto loans was rising while mortgages outstanding were declining at the end of the first quarter,” he indicated.

Jointly developed by SP Indices and Experian, Blitzer reiterated the SP/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices are published monthly with the intent to accurately track the default experience of consumer balances in four key loan categories: auto, bankcard, first mortgage lien and second mortgage lien.

The indices are calculated based on data extracted from Experian’s consumer credit database. This database is populated with individual consumer loan and payment data submitted by lenders to Experian every month.

Experian’s base of data contributors includes leading banks and mortgage companies and covers approximately $11 trillion in outstanding loans sourced from 11,500 lenders.

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