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U.S. Loan Delinquencies Fall as Consumers Manage Debt, ABA Says

April 5 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. consumer-loan delinquencies dropped in the fourth-quarter as consumers managed debt and the unemployment rate fell, the American Bankers Association said.

Overall delinquencies across eight loan categories fell to 2.68 percent of all accounts in the three months ended Dec. 31 from 3.01 percent in the prior quarter, the ABA said today in its Consumer Credit Delinquency Bulletin. Overdue payments on home-equity loans held steady at 4.05 percent and bank-card delinquencies dropped to the lowest level in almost a decade.

“Consumers are in better control of their finances and there are more people who are employed, and that means they have new sources of income that make it easier to meet their financial obligations,” James Chessen, the ABA’s chief economist, said in a telephone interview.

Consumers are benefitting from stock-market gains and employers created more jobs than forecast in March as the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 8.8 percent, a two-year low, Labor Department figures showed April 1.

“Looking forward, turmoil in the Middle East has raised oil prices and the nuclear crisis in Japan has created additional uncertainty about the pace of economic recovery,” Chessen said. “The housing market is still struggling to recover and the lack of improvement on home-equity loans is a reflection of that.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Meera Louis in Washington at mlouis1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lawrence Roberts at lroberts13@bloomberg.net

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