Late payments on certain auto and home equity loans climbed in the final quarter of last year, while delinquencies on credit card bills largely held steady, suggesting some U.S. consumers are feeling more squeezed than others.
The American Bankers Association, in its quarterly survey of consumer loans, reported Thursday that late payments on home equity loans rose to 1.92 percent in the October-December period. That was up sharply from 1.79 percent in the prior quarter and the highest since the first quarter of 2006.
"It's not a surprise to see some increase in home equity loan delinquencies, given the weaknesses in the housing market," said James Chessen, the association's chief economist.
Payments are considered delinquent if they are 30 or more days past due. The survey is based on information supplied by more than 300 U.S. banks.
Some homeowners — especially those with adjustable-rate mortgages who are unable to refinance because of poor credit histories — have gotten clobbered. Weak home prices and higher interest rates have made it difficult for them.
A separate survey released earlier this month by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed a big jump in late mortgage payments in the final quarter of last year, news that caused stocks on Wall Street to swoon.
The American Bankers Association's survey, meanwhile, also showed that the delinquency rate on "indirect" auto loans, which are arranged through dealerships, shot up to 2.57 percent in the fourth quarter, the highest since the second quarter of 2001, when the economy was in a recession. Late payments on other auto loans, however, dipped slightly.
The survey also showed that the percentage of credit card payments past due was 4.56 percent in the fourth quarter, down slightly from 4.57 percent in the third quarter.
Late payments on boat loans rose, while delinquent payment on mobile homes went down.
Taken all together, Chessen said the association's survey suggests that "American consumers are by, and large, managing debt well."