National consumer credit default rates fell in March to 1.20%, the lowest post-recession rate and lowest number since July 2006, according to data released Tuesday in the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices.
The first mortgage default rate fell to 1.13% in March, its lowest mark since September 2006. The second mortgage posted 0.60% in March, down from 0.69% in February. Both the auto loan (a default rate of 0.99%) and bank card (2.73%) categories recorded historic lows in March.
Recent economic reports showing improving trends such as gains in consumer confidence and the labor market, a result of fewer applicants filing for unemployment benefits, support the S&P/Experian data.
Retail sales also increased in March with online spending leading the way ahead of the upcoming holiday. Increasing jobs and growing income if upheld will provide a major boost to consumer spending. Consumer default rates have stabilized at levels similar to those seen before the financial crisis.
"Along with signs that the economy is improving, consumer credit default rates continue to gradually decline," says David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee for S&P Dow Jones Indices. "Possible areas of concern are reports of increases lending for car purchases to less credit worthy borrowers as well as the continued rise in student loans."
The report also singled out data from five large U.S. cities - Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. All five cities saw default rate decreases.
"Los Angeles continued its downwards trend, recording 1.04%, the lowest default rate seen since July 2006. Dallas recorded the largest downturn; it posted 0.97% in March, 19 basis points lower than last month's level," according to the report. "Miami experienced the largest decrease year-over-year; it posted 2.07% in March 2014, down 86 basis points from the 2.93% rate in March 2013. Miami continues to maintain the highest default rate while Dallas has the lowest. All five cities remain below default rates they posted a year ago, in March 2013."