width=320NEW YORK  - A record proportion of U.S. mortgages were in foreclosure or at least one payment past due in the fourth quarter, according to industry data showing the fragile state of the recovery in the housing market.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said on Friday the combination of loans in foreclosure and at least one payment past due was 15.02 percent on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the highest ever seen in the survey.

However, the delinquency rate for mortgage loans on one-to-four-unit residential properties fell to a seasonally adjusted rate of 9.47 percent of all loans outstanding as of the end of the fourth quarter of 2009, down from 9.64 percent in the third quarter, but up from 7.88 percent in the same quarter a year earlier, the MBA said in its National Delinquency Survey.

The percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions were started fell to 1.20 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 1.42 percent in the third quarter, but up from 1.08 percent in the same quarter a year earlier, the MBA said.

The U.S. foreclosure inventory rate for all loans was 4.58 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 4.47 percent in the third quarter and from 3.30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The records are based on MBA data dating back to 1972.

(Reporting by Julie Haviv, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)