The U.S. economy is growing steadily, but credit card lending is growing double that- rising more than 5% over a year earlier and accelerated to 6% in March and April, according to Federal Reserve data.
This is the fastest credit card debt has grown since card lending declined during the 2009 recession. Since Americans are not earning much more since that time- will delinquencies, charge-offs and bankruptcies begin to rise in another year or two?
Bad mortgages were at low levels in the mid-2000s, after numerous new loans were made, but before they had a chance to default, making loss measures a poor indicator of the 2008-09 credit crisis. Loan-loss rates measure the highest, not when bad loans are made, but when the loans stop getting paid. This can take a year or two from the time the bills are accrued.
Loan losses can be masked by aggressive new lending, and exaggerated at banks that stop making new loans, allowing loss rates to mount. The most aggressive and fastest growing major card lenders include Capital One, Synchrony (formerly General Electric Finance), and Wells Fargo. Citi, Chase and other bigger lenders are expanding less aggressively.
For the nine dominant U.S. credit card banks, which control 70% of the Visa-MasterCard-American Express-Discover-Chinapay market in the U.S., average charge-offs in early 2016 were 3.13% of annualized average loans.
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