U.S. consumers kept paying down debt in the first quarter ended March 31, as household wealth rose higher than the pre-recession peak, the American Bankers Association reported Tuesday.

A composite ratio, which tracks delinquency rates for eight loan categories, fell to 1.7% of all accounts from 1.99% the prior quarter, well below the 15-year average of 2.37%. Of the eight categories, only mobile home delinquencies rose.

Delinquencies on bank card payments, which are not part of the composite, fell to 2.41% during the quarter, a 22-year low.

"Many consumers have learned the hard lessons of recession, and have redoubled their efforts to keep debt at manageable levels," ABA's chief economist, James Chessen said in a statement.

Rising home and stock prices are creating a wealth effect that offers consumers a greater ability to pay down their debt, he said.

Property improvement and home equity loan delinquencies both fell, while home equity lines of credit delinquencies moved slightly higher. Home-related delinquencies remain elevated.

"While this improvement is encouraging, it will take a long time for delinquencies to work their way through the system and return to more normal levels," said Chessen.

The ABA also tracks late payments for bank-provided credit cards, auto loans and other consumer loans. The bank association defines a delinquency as a late payment that is 30 days or more overdue.

The ABA does not track delinquency rates for traditional mortgage payments, which rose in the first quarter according to a report from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

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