Credit card delinquency rates slipped or held firm at five major U.S. lenders last month, showing fewer Americans are falling behind on bills and suggesting the worst of consumers' stress may be over.
Charge-off rates were mixed at Capital One Financial Corp, Bank of America Corp, Discover Financial Services, JPMorgan Chase & Co and American Express Co, according to regulatory filings on Monday.
The delinquency rates, which stabilized in January, signal it is less likely that the card issuers will have to write off bad loans in the future. Charge-offs are loans the companies do not expect to be repaid.
The data build on similar trends in January and December, suggesting U.S. consumers are starting to claw out of the deep recession brought on by the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Capital One reported the sharpest delinquency rate drop from January to February, while American Express' rate was flat. Capital One and JPMorgan reported lower charge-off rates, while the other three companies reported higher rates.
Lenders lifted credit card rates last summer, setting off an expected rise in charge-offs in January and February, analysts said. That trend could continue this month.
American Express, the largest U.S. credit card company by purchase volume, said in a filing it expects second-quarter write-offs to be lower than in the first quarter, and that first-quarter write-offs will be similar to the fourth quarter level.
Shares of the lenders mostly fell, as pending details of a U.S. Senate plan to revamp financial regulation pressured the broader sector.
Citigroup Inc is expected to report the February performance of its credit card portfolios later on Monday.
Capital One said accounts at least 30 days delinquent -- an indicator of future loan losses -- declined to 5.51 percent in February from 5.80 percent in January. Its annualized net charge-off rate for U.S. credit cards fell to 10.19 percent from 10.41 percent.
Credit Suisse analyst Moshe Orenbuch said trends were better than expected at Capital One -- the third-largest U.S. issuer of Visa Inc branded credit card and the fifth-largest issuer of MasterCard branded credit cards. Charge-offs and delinquencies improved in both card and auto finance segments, the analyst told clients in a note.
JPMorgan, the top issuer of Visa-branded cards, said delinquencies dropped to 4.67 percent in February from 4.75 in January. Among the five major banks, JPMorgan had the sharpest decline in charge-offs, of 9.21 percent last month, compared with a 10.91 percent drop the previous month.
The delinquency rate at American Express was flat at 3.6 percent, the lowest of the five companies. Its charge-offs rose last month to 7.4 percent -- also the lowest level -- from 7.0 percent in January.
Bank of America, the largest U.S. bank, said its delinquency rate dropped for a third straight month, to 7.23 percent in February from 7.35 percent in January. Charge-offs rose to 13.51 percent from 13.25 percent.
Delinquencies at Discover Financial dropped to 5.50 percent last month from 5.55 percent in January. Its charge-off rate jumped to 9.11 percent from 8.58 percent.
Shares of Discover rose 0.4 percent, while shares of the other four card issuers fell. At mid-afternoon, American Express dropped 0.9 percent, JPMorgan slipped 1.14 percent, Bank of America gave up 0.95 percent and Capital One was off 1 percent.
(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Additional reporting by Brenton Cordeiro in Bangalore; Editing by John Wallace and Richard Chang)