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US Household Debts Climbed in 2016 by Most in a Decade

17 February 2017, 03:20 | Melvin Schneider

More Americans fell behind on their vehicle loan payments in the fourth quarter, bringing auto delinquencies to their highest since the height of the financial crisis, Federal Reserve Bank of NY data released on Thursday showed.

It is true that the delinquents bring about possible losses to auto makers.

Investors, meanwhile, are borrowing to snag more of those apparently-easy profits, with margin debt - money borrowed against stock portfolios to buy more shares - now above both 1999 and 2007 levels.

Delinquencies have moved up as the credit quality of the loans has deteriorated and the length of the auto loans has increased - sometimes to 84 months.

The result of these divergent lending practices had about 1 in 20 auto loans issued by finance companies running at least 90 days in arrears during the fourth quarter, compared with 1 in 100 for auto loans issued by banks and credit unions.

Analysts from Ford Motor Co state that in the fourth quarter of 2016, approximately $142 billion was generated in vehicle loans. According to The New York Federal Reserve, the total number of auto loans increased to the highest ever of 106 million in the fourth quarter. This set the 2016 record of auto loan originations in the entire history of the company.

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It is then expected to fall back to 2.4% in three years' time, before returning close to the target over the subsequent year. Even excluding the more volatile categories of food and energy, prices were still up by nearly as much at 2.3 percent.

The report indicates mortgages still make up the bulk of household debt, but student loans are now 10 percent of the total, auto loans are 9 percent of the total and credit card debt is 6 percent.

And since the average auto debt per borrower inched up 2.1 percent to $18,391, according to data published Thursday by TransUnion, the credit-reporting agency predicted delinquency rates would continue their climb.

Student loan debts too have gone up. Dollar amounts rose in each category in 2016's fourth quarter.

Credit card balances increased by $46 billion, and the aggregate credit card limit increased for the 16th consecutive quarter, with a serious delinquency rate of just above seven percent.

A silver lining to all this is that there was a decline of 4 percent in bankruptcy filings from Q4 2015.



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