Delinquent balances on U.S. credit cards reached record levels and defaults surged in December, according to Fitch Ratings, who warned charge-offs appear set to go even higher in coming months.

Credit-card loans have come under pressure from the economic downturn. Even with the economy making tentative steps toward recovery and stock markets 10 months into a rally, unemployment is a persistent thorn in lenders' sides. Fitch said Tuesday it expects U.S. unemployment will peak at 10.4% in the second quarter and remain in double digits throughout 2010.

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