Q1 bankruptcies soften, but trigger could be looming

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - 

At least one bankruptcy expert sees a potential connection to what the Federal Reserve does with interest rates as impacting filings and reversing what happened during the first quarter.

The American Bankruptcy Institute reported that total U.S. bankruptcy filings fell 4 percent during Q1.

According to data provided by Epiq Systems, bankruptcy filings totaled 187,331 in Q1, down 4 percent from the 195,283 filings registered during the first quarter of 2017.

The 178,004 total non-commercial filings recorded in Q1 represented a 4 percent decrease year-over-year from the total of 185,850 cases in Q1 2017.

Total commercial filings fell slightly in Q1, as the 9,327 filings dipped 1 percent from the 9,433 filings during the same period in 2017. However, total commercial Chapter 11 filings increased 22 percent from 1,280 the first quarter of last year to 1,562 during the first three months of this year.

“Volatile market conditions in retailing have led to an increase in commercial cases, while a long-awaited course correction on Fed monetary policy could make credit more expensive for consumers with household debt,” said ABI executive director Samuel Gerdano.

For the month of March, ABI pointed out the 770 commercial Chapter 11 filings represented an increase of 64 percent from the 471 filings registered in March of last year.

The 75,992 total filings in March marked a 7-percent decrease from the 81,632 total filings registered last March.

Total consumer filings in March also decreased 7 percent to 72,353 from the 77,908 filings recorded in March 2017.

Commercial filings in March totaled 3,639, representing a 2-percent drop from the 3,724 filings in March 2017.

The average nationwide per capita bankruptcy filing rate for the first three months of 2018 increased to 2.42 (total filings per 1,000 per population) from the 2.15 filing rate of the first two months of the year.

States with the highest per capita filing rate (total filings per 1,000 population) for the first quarter of 2018 included:

1. Alabama (5.77)

2. Tennessee (5.51)

3. Georgia (4.54)

4. Mississippi (4.29)

5. Illinois (3.84)

ABI has partnered with Epiq Systems, a provider of managed technology for the global legal profession, in order to provide the most current bankruptcy filing data for analysts, researchers and members of the news media.