WASHINGTON -- After improving for nine months, the delinquency rate on home mortgages got worse in the second quarter.

In what an industry leader termed a "discouraging" reversal, the percentage of loans at least 30 days past due rose to 4.77% at midyear, from 4.52% for the first quarter.

The data, released Thursday by the Mortgages Bankers Association of America, indicated that the economic recovery slowed in the spring. Through the first quarter, the delinquency rate had fallen steadily from a peak of 5.28% in the second quarter last year.

Further Bad News Expected

High unemployment, weak gains in personal income, and softer home prices combined to make it more difficult for consumers to stay current on their mortgages, said Warren Lasko, the Mortgage Bankers Association's executive vice president.

He characterized the higher delinquency figure as "discouraging, but not surprising."

He added, "The delinquency and foreclosure picture undoubtedly would be grimmer if it were not for the lower interest rate environment."

Further bad news is likely, Mr. Lasko warned. "We'd say delicately that we'd anticipate delinquency rates moving up gradually."

Unemployment Linkage

The reason can be found in unemployment trends, Mr. Lasko said. Delinquencies surged the most in the North Central region, which includes the major automobile-producing states.

"Where we've seen increases in delinquency rates, it's clearly where unemployment rates are the highest and have moved up the most," Mr. Lasko said.

The second-quarter delinquency level was roughly equivalent to the 4.78% registered in the fourth quarter of 1991, the second of the three recent quarters of improvement.

The MBA's quarterly national delinquency survey covers about 16 million mortgage loans on dwellings of one to four units.

The biggest jump in delinquencies came among those least seriously overdue: 3.18% of loans were 30 to 59 days past deadlines in the second quarter, up from 3.04% in the first.

The percentage of loans 60 to 89 days past due rose to 0.76% in the June quarter from 0.70% in the previous three months. And the rate past 90 days delinquent rose to 0.33% from 0.31%.

Although delinquencies rose for all types of mortgages, government-guaranteed loans fared far worse than the conventional loans that most commercial banks and thrifts make.

The second-quarter delinquency rate for conventional loans was 3.08%, up from 3.01% in the first quarter.

In contrast, delinquencies on loans guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration rose to 7.31% in the June quarter, up from 6.69% three months earlier. Veterans Affairs loans had a delinquency rate of 6.73%, up from 6.24%. Most of these loans are originated by mortgage bankers.

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