Delinquent balances on U.S. credit cards reached record levels and defaults surged in December, according to Fitch Ratings, which warned that chargeoffs 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 that it expects U.S. unemployment to peak at 10.4% in the second quarter and remain in double digits throughout 2010.

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