Credit card chargeoffs reported in June for the May collection period totaled $842 million, lowering the Fitch credit card performance index to 6.81% from 6.95%.

The decline ended a six-month streak of rising chargeoffs.

Even though fewer master trusts related to securitized card loans had higher chargeoffs in May, Fitch Investors Service Inc. said it does not anticipate further near-term relief.

Seasonal chargeoff peaks in June, July, and August will probably put the index back on its upward trend, the ratings firm said.

Further, Fitch noted that the record pace of personal bankruptcy filings should continue to push the index higher through yearend.

A record 321,242 personal bankruptcy filings were reported in the first quarter, 27% more than in the year-earlier quarter.

The full-year total is expected to top 1.5 million, versus 1.1 million in 1996.

In combating these trends, card issuers have slowed growth, tightened underwriting standards, and intensified their focus on collections.

These efforts could produce a leveling in the index's rate of rise compared with that of the 12 months through June, the rating agency said.

Master trusts reporting the largest chargeoff improvements for the May collection period were Advanta, Chase, Citibank, and First Chicago. Master trusts posting higher chargeoffs were Capital One, First USA, and Sears.

The Fitch index tracks the performance of credit card receivables backing $148 billion in asset-backed securities.

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