A rise in late payments for auto loans drove overall consumer delinquencies higher in the fourth quarter of 2007 to reach levels last seen in 1992, according to the American Bankers Association’s Consumer Credit Delinquency Bulletin released yesterday.

The ABA’s composite ratio of consumer delinquencies rose to 2.65 percent of all accounts in the fourth quarter, up from 2.44 percent in the third quarter.

“The rise in consumer credit delinquencies is consistent with a rapidly slowing economy,” James Chessen, the ABA’s chief economist, said in a press release.

The ABA creates its composite ratio of delinquencies by tracking eight closed–end installment loan categories. Two of the largest are Home Equity and Auto.

Delinquencies on indirect auto loans, such as those from a dealership, rose 27 basis points to 3.13 percent. Indirect auto loans account for about 90 percent of all auto loans, according to an ABA spokesperson. Delinquencies on direct auto loans from a bank rose to 1.90 percent in the fourth quarter from 1.81 percent. 

Chessen noted that the auto loans category accounts for about two-thirds of all close-end consumer installment loans. Home equity loans also looked weak with delinquencies increasing to 2.39 percent from 2.28 percent

The ABA also tracks Bank card delinquencies though the category is not included in its composite ratio. The number of delinquent bank card loans rose 20 basis points to 4.38 percent, still below the five-year average of 4.40 percent for the category, according to the ABA.

Chessen predicted that delinquencies will continue to rise in the second quarter of this year due to increasing costs of gas and food, and stagnant incomes.

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