WASHINGTON — The number of new foreclosures increased 21.1% in the third quarter as mortgage servicers lifted voluntary moratoria implemented late last year, according to a report released Wednesday by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Servicers exhausted foreclosure alternatives for the large inventory of seriously delinquent loans that were working their way through the loss mitigation process, leading to the quarterly spike, according to the OCC's quarterly mortgage metrics report.

Servicers also took longer to complete foreclosures, resulting in a 0.5% increase in the number of foreclosures in process, to 4.1% of the overall portfolio, or 1.3 million loans, at the end of the third quarter, the report said.

Delinquencies remained "elevated but stable" in the third quarter, but have declined from a year earlier. And the overall quality of the portfolio has remained unchanged, the OCC said, with the percentage of current and performing loans decreasing by 0.1% from the previous quarter, and increasing 0.7% from a year earlier, to 88% of the overall portfolio.

The report measures the performance of first-lien mortgages serviced by large national banks and thrifts, and covers about 62% of all such mortgages in the United States, worth about $5.6 trillion in outstanding balances.

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