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Serious Delinquency Rates Rise As Consumer Debt Hits New Highs In 2017

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has released its Household Debt and Credit Report for the first quarter of 2017.

According to the report, household debt has now reached an all-time high. Gains in mortgage debt, auto debt and student debt were all cited. This all-time high now stands at $12.73 trillion and was $149 billion higher than in the fourth quarter of 2016. What stands out here is that it is about $50 billion above the previous peak reached back in the third quarter of 2008 — right before the recession kicked into overdrive.

While the New York Fed showed that aggregate delinquency rates were roughly flat in the first quarter of 2017, some 4.8% of outstanding debt was listed as being in some stage of delinquency. Of that total, $615 billion of debt listed as is delinquent, some $426 billion is listed as seriously delinquent — at least 90 days late or “severely derogatory.”

Debt balances climbed in several areas. Mortgage debt rose 1.7% (up $147 billion) to $8.63 trillion. Balances on home equity lines of credit fell slightly in the first quarter, down $19 billion to $456 billion. Car loans were up 0.9% (up $10 billion) and student loans were up 2.6% (up $34 billion).

It may sound impressive that credit card balances were actually down by 1.9% (by $15 billion) in the first quarter, but there is a seasonal aspect to that component and there are some troubling signs on the internal credit card metrics. Of the $764 billion in credit card balances as a whole, the credit card with 90 or more day delinquency rates deteriorated and they now stand at 7.5%.

It was shown that early delinquency flows have improved since the recession, but there has been a slow deterioration in auto loan performance and a more recent uptick in early delinquency rates on credit card debt.

On student debt, the percentage of student loan balances that transition to serious delinquency has remained high, around 10% and that has been the case over the past five years.

Bankruptcy notations and credit inquires also have to be considered here for the full picture. Some 203,000 consumers had a bankruptcy notation added to their credit reports in the first quarter of 2017, which is 1.7% lower than a year earlier, and the New York Fed called it another record series-low. The number of credit inquiries within the past six months, which the New York Fed calls an indicator of consumer credit demand, declined from the previous quarter to 162 million.

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By John C. Ogg | 24/7 Wall Street

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New Cars Could Limit Mortgage Options

Could that shiny new car you just financed with a big dealer loan or lease put a damper on your ability to refinance your mortgage or move to a different house? Could your growing debt — for autos, student loans and credit cards — make it tougher to come up with all the monthly payments you owe? Absolutely.

And some mortgage and credit analysts are beginning to cast a wary eye on the prodigious amounts of debt American homeowners are piling up. New research from Black Knight Financial Services, an analytics and technology company focused on the mortgage industry, reveals that homeowners’ non-mortgage debt has hit its highest level in 10 years.

New debt taken on to finance autos accounted for 81 percent of the increase — a direct consequence of booming car sales and attractive loan deals. The average transaction price of a new car or pickup truck in April was $33,560, according to Kelley Blue Book researchers.

Student-loan debt is also contributing to strains on owners’ budgets. Balances are up more than 55 percent since 2006.Credit-card debt is another factor, but it has not mushroomed like auto and student loans have. Nonetheless, homeowners carrying balances on their cards owe an average $8,684, according to Black Knight data.The jump in non-mortgage debt is especially noteworthy among owners with Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs home loans. These borrowers — who typically have lower credit scores and make minimal down payments (as little as 3.5 percent for FHA, zero for VA) — now carry non-mortgage debt loads that average $29,415. By contrast, borrowers using conventional Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac financing have significantly lower debt loads — an average $22,414 — but typically have much higher credit scores and have made larger down payments.

Is there reason for concern? Bruce McClary, vice president at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, thinks there could be if the pattern continues.

Some people have lost sight of the ground rules for responsible credit and are “pushing the boundaries,” he said.

Auto costs — monthly loan payments plus fuel and maintenance — shouldn’t exceed

15 to 20 percent of household income, he said. Yet some people who already have debt-strained budgets are buying new cars with easy-to-obtain dealer financing that knocks them well beyond prudent guidelines.

According to a recent study by credit bureau Equifax, total outstanding balances for auto loans and leases surged by

10.5 percent during the past 12 months. Of all auto loans originated through April, 23.5 percent were made to consumers with subprime credit scores.

Ben Graboske, senior vice president for data and analytics at Black Knight Financial Services, cautions that although rising debt loads might look ominous, there is no evidence that more borrowers are missing mortgage payments or heading for default. Thanks to rising home-equity holdings and improvements in employment, 30-day delinquencies on mortgages are just 2.3 percent, he said, the same level as they were in 2005, before the housing crisis. Even FHA delinquencies are relatively low at 4.53 percent.

But Graboske agrees that other consequences of high debt totals could limit homeowners’ financial options: They “are going to have less wiggle room” in refinancing their current mortgages or obtaining a new mortgage to buy another house.

Why?

Because debt-to-income ratios are a crucial part of mortgage underwriting and are stricter and less flexible than they were a decade ago. The more auto, student-loan and credit-card debt you have along with other recurring expenses such as alimony and child support, the tougher it will be to refinance or get a new home loan.

If your total monthly debt for mortgage and other obligations exceeds 45 percent of your monthly income, lenders who sell their mortgages to giant investors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could reject your application for a refinancing or new mortgage, absent strong compensating factors such as exceptional credit scores and substantial cash or investments in reserve. FHA is more flexible but generally doesn’t want to see debt levels above 50 percent.

Bottom line: Before signing up for a hefty loan on a new car, take a hard, sober look at the effect it will have on your debt-to-income ratio. When it comes to what Graboske calls your mortgage wiggle room, less debt, not more, might be the way to go.

Read more in The Columbus Dispatch where author Kenneth R. Harney covers housing issues on Capitol Hill for the Washington Post Writers Group. kenharney@earthlink.net