An increasing number of people in the U.S. are able to handle their home-related loans, as evidenced by a slight dip in loan delinquencies.
The American Bankers Association said Tuesday that the number of payments later than 30 days fell in the fourth quarter of 2012 in three of the main loan categories it tracks -- property improvement loans, home equity loans and home equity lines of credit. This marks the first time in two years the ABA recorded dips in all three categories, possibly signaling a slow rebound.
"Falling delinquencies are another indicator of the housing market's nascent recovery," James Chessen, chief economist at the ABA, said in a statement. "While home-related delinquencies remain at elevated levels, even one-quarter of declines could signal the start of a slow but steady improvement."
Chessen said the improvements show consumers attempting to reduce their debt levels; however, consumers and businesses will face serious challenges in 2013.
"Make no mistake about it, a great deal of uncertainty still lingers over this economy," Chessen said. "Furloughs from sequestration, falling disposable income, and increased health care and regulatory costs for businesses could lead to challenges in the year ahead."
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The report shows that the composite delinquency ratio fell to 1.99 percent of all accounts in the fourth quarter, below the 15-year average; however, delinquencies rose in three of the eight loan categories counted in the composite. The ABA also tracks late payments for bank-provided credit cards, auto loans and other consumer loans.
Related indicators have also shown positive signs. Bank card delinquencies, which are not part of the composite, fell to 2.47 percent, the lowest since the third quarter of 1994, from 2.75 percent in the third quarter, according to the ABA report. Meanwhile, Corelogic released a report showing the number of foreclosed U.S. homes that were sold or seized by lenders in February fell to the lowest level in almost five and a half years.