The credit outlook at the top six card issuers is getting brighter, with both chargeoffs and delinquencies falling again in July.
The rate of credit losses in Capital One Financial Corp.'s U.S. card portfolio declined for a fourth straight month, tumbling 115 basis poiants from June to 8.13% — the lowest chargeoff rate since February 2009. The percentage of accounts 30 days or more past due to total accounts fell 13 basis points to 4.66%.
Chargeoffs fell for a fourth month in a row at JPMorgan Chase & Co. as well, slipping 43 basis points to 7.95%. Total delinquencies declined for a seventh straight month, to 4.06% from 4.13%. Early stage delinquencies, or the rate of credit card loans 30 to 59 days overdue, dipped below 1% for the first time in a year.
Americans are paying down debt and becoming more fiscally prudent in the wake of the recession. That's been exemplified in recent months as chargeoffs show a steady improvement, after a rocky start to the year when rates fluctuated up and down. Delinquencies, which are considered a good indicator of future losses, have also been on the decline.
Analysts expect the improvement in credit — revealed in monthly filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday — to be a lasting trend.
"Unless we have another significant decline in unemployment trends, these credit patterns should continue to improve ... back to so -called normalized losses which would be down around 4.5% to 5%," said Bruce Harting, managing director at Barclays Capital.
Analysts previously expressed concern over issuers' anemic balance growth. But even the pace of deterioration there has slowed.
At Bank of America Corp., for instance, total principal receivables in the trust slipped 1%, to $76.6 billion, after falling 1.4% in June. U.S. card balances declined at a rate of 1% in July, to $54.1 billion at Capital One, versus a nearly 3% rate of decline at the beginning of the year.
Chargeoffs fell for a second straight month at both B of A and Discover Financial Services. The loss rate fell 59 basis points to 11.39% at B of A, and 72 basis points to 7.28% at Discover.
American Express Co. said its chargeoff rate fell 20 basis points to 5.5%. Its delinquency rate fell 10 basis points to 2.6%. At Citigroup Inc. chargeoffs plunged 162 basis points to 9.1% from 10.72%, when adjusting for a flaw in the bank's loss reporting process that had resulted in slightly higher chargeoff rates since 2008. Delinquencies fell 14 basis points to 5.3%. Meanwhile, Alliance Data Systems Corp., which manages private-label credit cards for retailers, said net chargeoffs fell 20 basis points in July to 8.6%.