Auto defaults record largest sequential jump in almost 6 years


Analysts aren’t panicking, but the auto portion of the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices made its largest sequential jump in almost six years.

On Tuesday, S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian released data through August and reported the auto loan default rate rose by 9 basis points as compared to July to land at 0.95 percent. The month-over-month climb was the largest since December 2011. However, analysts emphasized the default rate remains low relative to historical levels.

While the latest sequential jump is noteworthy, it’s only a fraction of the largest month-over-month jump S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian noticed, according to their data that goes back 10 years. Analysts recorded a 27 basis point spike in the summer of 2009 as the auto default rate increased from 2.19 percent in June to 2.46 percent in July.

David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, discussed the auto segment in more detail on Tuesday.

“Some future developments could affect consumer credit defaults: Auto sales have fallen since December 2016 and are down 11 percent,” Blitzer said. “Declining auto sales and the normal end-of-model year push to make room for new cars may encourage easier credit conditions and raise concerns about future defaults.

“Hurricane damage in Houston and across Florida is creating substantial financial stress,” he continued.

The auto default movement helped to push the composite rate — which represents a comprehensive measure of changes in consumer credit defaults — a bit higher in August. The composite rate ticked up 3 basis points month-over-month to come in at 0.86 percent.

The first mortgage default rate also increased by 3 basis points from July to 0.65 percent.

The bank card default rate continued to fall in August, dropping 12 basis points versus July to its lowest level since December at 3.19 percent. Bank cards were the only loan type to see a decrease in default rates in August.

Analysts went on to mention three of the five major cities saw their default rates increase in August.

New York had the largest increase, rising 13 basis points from July to 0.95 percent.

Los Angeles reported in at 0.66 percent for August, up 3 basis points from the previous month.

Chicago came in at 0.94 percent, up 4 basis points from July.

Dallas posted a decrease of 3 basis points from the previous month to 0.74 percent.

Miami enjoyed an even larger decrease, coming in at 1.13 percent for August, which was 10 basis points lower than July.

“Overall, consumer credit defaults show no reason for alarm,” Blitzer said. “Defaults on first mortgages are flat to down while defaults on auto loans have risen slightly in recent months.

Consumer credit defaults on bank cards continue their upward creep since the end of 2015 despite a recent drop,” he continued. The combination of an improving labor market, low inflation, and low interest rates are the principal factors behind currently favorable consumer credit conditions.

“The impact on mortgages on damaged or destroyed homes is not yet clear,” Blitzer added. “Job losses and rising spending needs could lead to increased consumer credit defaults in coming months.”

Jointly developed by S&P Indices and Experian, analysts noted the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices are published monthly with the intent to accurately track the default experience of consumer balances in four key loan categories: auto, bankcard, first mortgage lien and second mortgage lien.

The indices are calculated based on data extracted from Experian’s consumer credit database. This database is populated with individual consumer loan and payment data submitted by lenders to Experian every month.

Experian’s base of data contributors includes leading banks and mortgage companies and covers approximately $11 trillion in outstanding loans sourced from 11,500 lenders.