Second mortgage and bank card defaults spike as spending rises

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Default rates in second mortgages and bank cards rose notably in December, suggesting consumers are having trouble managing increased spending.

The second mortgage default rate climbed to 1.22% from 1.08% the previous month, and was nearly three times as high a year ago when it was 0.41%, according to Standard & Poor's and Experian.

First mortgage default rates inched up month-to-month to an average of 0.68%, but were lower year-to-year. In November, the first mortgage default rate was 0.66%, and in December 2016, it was 0.71%.

The auto loan default rate also remained fairly stable at 1.1%. It was down a basis point from November and up 7 basis points from December 2016.

"Defaults on auto loans are up slightly and first mortgage defaults are little changed over the last two to three years," said David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, in a press release.

In contrast, the average bank card default rate was notably higher in December of last year. It jumped to 3.44% from 3.28% the previous month and from 2.95% the previous year.

"Continued low unemployment and low inflation, rising home prices and stock market gains combined with gains in consumer confidence to support strong gains in retail sales in the last four months of 2017," he said. "However, the same expansion in consumer spending is now appearing in the bank card default data."

Consumers have increased their spending due to strong employment, but because wage growth is stagnant there has been some concern that increased defaults in some sectors could reflect less manageable debt-to-income levels.

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Mortgage defaults Default management Consumer lending Auto lending S&P Experian