Consumer Credit Strengthens as Defaults Fall

June 28, 2019 | By admin | Filed in: Blog.

There is more good news on the housing and economic front, according to recently released data from Standard and Poor’s and Experian.  The S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices show that the rates of defaults fell in three of the four measured categories. This “comprehensive measure of changes in consumer credit defaults”[1] revealed that defaults on first mortgage liens in May fell from 2.16% to 2.09%, and second mortgage liens fell from 1.51% to 1.42% for the same time period.  Outside of the housing market, defaults on automobile loans decreased from 1.45% in April to 1.34% in May.  The only measured area to see an increase was in the area of bank cards which ticked up slightly from 5.91% to 5.93%.

The decreased rates of default are encouraging because they may signal a turn-around in the larger, over-all economy.  In time of economic hardship, such as loss of income for a household, consumers often turn to credit to make ends meet.  When the bill comes due and the consumer has not recovered from the economic hardship, default is likely.  In the housing market, increases in defaults can, in most areas of the country, be traced to unemployment and subsequent underemployment.  With other promising news reported over the past few weeks, industry experts, professionals, and consumers have reason to be optimistic.

The measured declines from April 2011 to May 2011 are not the only source of optimism. David Blitzer, the Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee for S&P Indices, explains “While we might observe volatility from month-to-month, looking at default rates over the past few years it is easy to see that consumers have come a long way in fixing their balance sheets.”[2]  Indeed, if one reads beyond the month-to-month changes, it is easy to see the progress made from one year ago.

S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices

National Indices[3]

Index May 2011 Index Level April 2011 Index Level May 2010 Index Level




First Mortgage




Second Mortgage




Bank Card




Auto Loans




As shown with much of the recent housing market data, changes are closely linked to geographic location.  Areas where housing prices have rebounded or stayed constant have seen lower rates of default.  Also, in areas where there is relatively low unemployment or where the unemployment rate has fallen, experience similar rates of default.  In order to accurately account for geographic inequalities, the Indices compile data from Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).  Of these areas, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami all saw decreases in rates of default, while Dallas experienced a slight increase, but all were well below the rates of May, 2010.

David Blitzer explains the MSA-specific data, “We do continue to see some differences among the cities.  While Miami’s high unemployment rate contributes to its high default rate, compared to some of the other cities, such as New York and Chicago, it is not the only variable.  The latest MSA-level unemployment data show that at about 11%, Los Angeles and Miami have unemployment rates above the national average; however, the [LA’s] 2.39% default rate is almost half of Miami’s 5.31%.  While both Los Angeles and Miami were among the cities with the largest home price increases, housing in southern California is doing better than housing in south Florid

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