March default reading mixed depending on comparison

NEW YORK - 

Auto finance defaults improved a bit on a sequential comparison but deteriorated slightly on a year-over-year basis in March, according to the latest S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices.

On Tuesday, S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian released their data through March, and analysts indicated the auto default rate fell 4 basis points from last month to 1.05 percent.

In March of last year, the reading stood at 1.00 percent, so the uptick registered in at 5 basis points.

S&P and Experian determined the composite rate — which represents a comprehensive measure of changes in consumer credit defaults — came in unchanged for March on a sequential basis at 0.96 percent.

The first mortgage default rate also was unchanged, settling at 0.72 percent.

However, analysts noticed the bank card default rate rose 14 basis points sequentially to 3.78 percent.

S&P and Experian explained bank card default rates have been higher or unchanged for six consecutive months, and now are at their highest level since July 2012. Meanwhile the firms added auto and first mortgage default rates continue to remain stable.

Turn next to a glimpse at some of the largest U.S. population areas; analysts noticed three of the five major cities saw a sequential increase in composite default rates in March.

Miami had the largest rise, up 59 basis points to 2.13 percent.

The default rate for Dallas rose 2 basis points to 0.91 percent, while New York’s increased one basis point to 0.95 percent.

Chicago had the largest decrease, falling 11 basis points to 1.04 percent.

The rate for Los Angeles dropped 4 basis points to 0.60 percent.

S&P and Experian pointed out the composite default rates for Miami have increased for four consecutive months, moving up a total of 116 basis points in that span. The other four major cities have seen little change to their composite rates over the same period.

David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, offered more analysis about what the March data revealed.

“Recent patterns in consumer credit defaults continue,” Blitzer said. “The recent volatility in the stock market has not affected consumer sentiment and spending. The default rate on bank cards continues the modest increases seen in recent months while default experience on mortgage and auto loans is little changed.

“The favorable economic environment of stable inflation and unemployment explains the positive results seen in mortgages and auto loans. At current levels, the bank card numbers are not a cause for concern,” he continued.

“Among the cities reported here, Miami is the only one with a noticeable composite default rate increase. Miami tends to have more volatile and somewhat higher default rates than the other cities,” Blitzer went on to say.

“The sharp regional variations that characterized the period during and after the financial crisis are less evident in the data for the last few years,” he added. Changes in home prices vary less across the country. Moreover, mortgage rates are largely set on a national basis depending on monetary policy. Consumer credit defaults are less regional than 10 years ago.”

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