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US consumers pay down debts in December

Feb 02, 2012 Mike Garretson

Americans were more diligent about paying off their debts in December, so much so that the total volume of U.S. debt declined, according to the latest National Credit Trends Report from Equifax. Total consumer debt now now stands at $11.1 trillion, marking a nearly 11 percent decrease in debt from the peak of $12.4 trillion recorded in October 2008. Delinquencies on bank credit cards plummeted in December, with payments past 60 days falling by 29 percent. However, there was a 48 percent rise in new bank credit cards issued to subprime borrowers. Delinquency rates also declined on auto loans, first mortgages and retail credit cards. The only segments that noted an increase in delinquent payments was on student loans. This reflects the general credit situation in the U.S., wherein the total volume of student debt is now greater than that of credit cards, according to the New York Federal Reserve. "The improvement in 2011 delinquency data, paired with consistent growth in loan originations in multiple sectors, provides truly positive momentum for the industry as we begin a new year," said Michael Koukounas, senior vice president of analytics at Equifax. "More than 63 percent of all past due balances are from loans originated between 2005 and 2007."