S&P/Experian: Auto Loans Among Lowest Default Rates Since Recession Started

April 18, 2012

NEW YORK — Debtors are doing a better job of keeping up with all primary segments of consumer credit — including auto loans — according to the newest SP/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices.

The March auto loan index reading dropped to 1.11 percent, down from the same month a year ago when it came in at 1.47 percent. February’s level was 1.22 percent as analysts said vehicle contract defaults now have decreased to the lowest rate since the end of the recent economic crisis.

Auto loan performance helped the national composite index rate to decline to 1.96 percent in March from the February rate of 2.09 percent.

Mortgages also reflected better debt management as the March index reading for first mortgages dropped to 1.88 percent, down from 2.02 percent in February and 2.33 percent last March. And for second mortgages, the March level dipped to 1.03 percent, an improvement from February’s level of 1.20 percent, as well as what analysts spotted a year earlier, 1.42 percent.

The only credit segment that didn’t have a completely positive trend to mention in SP/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices report was connected with bank cards. Analysts found the March level came in at 4.47 percent, up slightly from February’s mark of 4.41 percent but down from a year earlier when it was 5.59 percent.

“The first quarter of 2012 was largely positive for the consumer,” stated David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee for SP Indices.

“Not only have we resumed the downward trend in consumer default rates that began in the spring of 2009, but we appear to be reaching new lows across most loan types,” Blitzer surmised. “The first three months of 2012 show broad based declines in default rates with first and second mortgage, auto and composite default rates all reaching post-recession lows.

“The first mortgage default rate fell by 14 basis points in March, bringing this rate below the prior August 2011 low. The second mortgage rate fell by even more during the month, 17 basis points. Both second mortgage and auto default rates are also at their lowest in the three-plus year history of these data,” he went on to say. “While the bank card rate rose, it was not by much and is still close to the recent low reported just last month.”

Turning to a geographical look at credit performance, four of the five largest metropolitan areas tracked in the SP/Experian Consumer Default Composite Indices posted both month-over-month and year-over-year improvements.

“For the third consecutive month, Chicago saw a decline, moving from 2.84 percent in December to 2.35 percent in March. That’s almost half a percentage point and one of the two cities to post new lows,” Blitzer highlighted.

“New York and Miami both fell for the second consecutive month,” he continued. “New York decreased slightly from 2.04 percent in February to 2.01 percent in March. Miami dropped almost a full percentage point, from 4.54 percent in February to 3.62 percent in March. While it still remains the highest default rate, Miami is the other city to hit a post-recession low.

“Dallas moved down from 1.61 percent in February to 1.44 percent in March and retains the lowest rate among the five cities we follow,” Blitzer went on to say. “Los Angeles was the only city where default rates marginally rose, from 1.87 percent to 1.88 percent.”

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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