Credit Card and Auto Delinquencies Soar, Especially Age Group 18 to 39


by Mish Shedlock, Mish Talk:

Credit card debt surged to a record high in the fourth quarter. Even more troubling is a steep climb in 90 day or longer delinquencies.

Please consider the New York Fed Household Credit Report for the Fourth Quarter 2023, released this week.

Consumer Credit Key Points

  • Aggregate household debt balances increased by $212 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023, a 1.2% rise from 2023Q3. Balances now stand at $17.50 trillion and have increased by $3.4 trillion since the end of 2019, just before the pandemic recession.


  • Mortgage balances shown on consumer credit reports increased by $112 billion during the fourth quarter of 2023 and stood at $12.25 trillion at the end of December.
  • Balances on home equity lines of credit (HELOC) increased by $11 billion, the seventh consecutive quarterly increase after 2022Q1, and there is now $360 billion in aggregate outstanding balances.
  • Credit card balances, which are now at $1.13 trillion outstanding, increased by $50 billion (4.6%).
  • Auto loan balances increased by $12 billion, continuing the upward trajectory that has been in place since 2020Q2, and now stand at $1.61 trillion.
  • Other balances, which include retail cards and other consumer loans, grew by $25 billion. Student loan balances were effectively flat, with a $2 billion increase and stand at $1.6 trillion. In total, non-housing balances grew by $89 billion.

Record High Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt rose to a new record high of $1.13 trillion, up $50 billion in the quarter. Even more troubling is the surge in serious delinquencies, defined as 90 days or more past due.

For nearly all age groups, serious delinquencies are the highest since 2011 at best.

Auto Loan Delinquencies

Serious delinquencies on auto loans have jumped from under 3 percent in mid-2021 to to 5 percent at the end of 2023 for age group 18-29.

Age group 30-39 is also troubling. Serious delinquencies for age groups 18-29 and 30-39 are at the highest levels since 2010.

Mortgage Loans

Unlike the Great Recession, mortgages are not a serious issue.

Everyone who could refinance did refinance and often at rates near 3.0 percent. After refinancing, monthly payments dropped. Finally, rising prices put risk of foreclosure very low for all but recent buyers who stretched too far to buy a house.

Yet, here again we see a small uptick across the board but especially noticeable for age group 18-29. But this will not be a replay of the Great Recession mortgage bust.

Economists are and writers are still struggling with what seems obvious if one bothers looking beyond the headline numbers.

For example on February 7, the Wall Street Journal posted Why Americans Are So Down on a Strong Economy

What’s Going On?

  • In a single sentence, the economy is nowhere near as strong as the soft landing crowd thinks. That’s why people are down.

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