America's economic recovery has been slow but steady. Thanks to improved consumer confidence and slightly looser credit restrictions, individuals and businesses are moving back toward the "old normal".
But hold the phone: data from Experian Automotive suggests that we may be returning to the old normal with some some of our old habits intact. Specifically, Experian notes that 60-day delinquencies on auto loans rose in the last three months of 2012. If true, it would be the first time they've done so since 2009.
That said, the uptick Experian notes isn't especially dramatic, and Experian prefaces its report by saying that on the whole, the U.S. auto market is in great shape. Melinda Zabritski, Experian's director of automotive credit, says that "Overall, our Q4 analysis shows that the auto lending market is extremely healthy.... Of course, you never want to see an increase in delinquencies, but when you take a step back and look at the market compared to where it was three years ago, we still have remarkable stability."
Here are some of Experian's key findings:
- There was an uptick in the number of 60-day delinquencies in Q4 of 2012. The total number of delinquencies edged up from 0.72% of all loans in Q4 of 2011 to 0.74% in Q4 of 2012. There hasn't been a year-over-year rise in the number of 60-day delinquencies since Q4 of 2009.
- The balance of 60-day delinquencies jumped, too -- from $3.48 billion in Q4 of 2011 to $3.93 billion in Q4 of 2012. That said, because of America's growing auto market, those figures represent a fairly small slice of outstanding balances. The sums were 0.55% of all Q4 balances in 2012, compared to 0.53% of all balances in Q4 of 2011.
- On the upside, the number of 30-day delinquencies has fallen slightly, slipping from 2.79% of all loans in Q4 of 2011 to 2.72% in Q4 of 2012.
- Repossessions have also fallen in the past year: roughly 0.46% of financed vehicles were repossessed in Q4 of 2012, compared to 0.63% in Q4 of 2011.
- And in the grand scheme of things, Americans are in much better shape than they were in the depths of the Great Recession. In Q4 of 2009, 60-day delinquencies constituted 0.94% of all auto loans, while in Q4 of 2012, they represent 0.74%. Thirty-day delinquencies are also down from 3.30% of total loans in Q4 of 2009 to 2.72% in Q4 of last year.