Experts who compile the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices described the readings to close 2018 as a "caution signal."
This week, the teams from S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian released their default data through December, and they spotted a sizeable jump for auto financing.
The December auto default rate increased 10 basis points to 1.03 percent, representing the largest sequential rise since another 10-bps leap from August to September in 2017.
The auto movement was just part widespread default rises to finish this past year.
The December composite rate — which represents a comprehensive measure of changes in consumer credit defaults — climbed 6 basis points in December to land at 0.89 percent.
The December bank card default rate spiked 25 basis points to 3.34 percent.
And the first mortgage default rate in December came in 3 basis points higher at 0.67 percent.
The jumps continued with analysts looking at the five largest markets they track for their monthly updates.
The rate for Miami vaulted 41 basis points higher to 1.93 percent, while the rate for New York jumped 13 basis points to 0.96 percent.
The default rate for Chicago was up 4 basis points to 0.88 percent.
The rate for Dallas increased three basis points to 0.85 percent while for Los Angeles, the rate edged 2 basis points higher to 0.52 percent.
David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, pointed out that December marked the first time since January 2017 that all loan types and all major markets showed a higher default rate month-over-month.
However, with one exception; index levels remain in line with or lower than levels one year ago. The Miami index is nearly twice its level of a year ago due to a sharp increase in the first mortgage component.
“Consumer credit default rates are giving a caution signal,” Blitzer said. “It has been almost two years since default rates across the three sectors and all five cities tracked in this report rose together. The chart shows that defaults on bank cards have resumed their uneven upward trend.
“A recent report from the New York Federal Reserve Bank notes that rejection rates on credit card applications rose in 2018, as did the number of times lenders cancelled accounts,” he continued. “These trends, combined with gradual increases in market interest rates during 2018, point to increasing pressure on the availability of consumer credit as the economy shifts from the fast path of growth last year to what analysts expect to be a slower, more sustainable pace in 2019.
“The economic pictures behind the three lending sectors — autos, mortgages and bank cards — reveal different patterns,” Blitzer went on to say. “Housing is pressured by rising prices and higher mortgage rates. Sales of both new and existing homes are weakening. Auto sales were steady in 2017 and 2018 at slightly more than 17 million vehicles sold each year. Retail sales and consumer spending saw continued growth in 2018 with few signs that credit tightening was having any impact.”
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.