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Credit card delinquencies up to highest rate since 1986


NEW YORK -- Delinquencies on credit card balances jumped in the third quarter to their highest rate in four years, and more accounts are expected to fall past due as the economy weakens.

"Delinquencies are rising, and I think it's a reflection of the economy in this point in time," said Kenneth Keck, who is a senior vice president of Harris Trust and Savings Bank in Chicago.

Loans at least 30 days overdue rose to 4.01 percent of balances outstanding from 3.46 percent in the second quarter, according to the American Bankers Association, a trade group.

The delinquency rate had not topped 4 percent since 1986.

For the most part, bankers and economists expect credit card delinquencies to grow as the economy withers.

Credit card loans -- one of the largest areas of consumer credit for banks -- tend to reflect economic pressures on consumers more quickly than other types of loans and so are closely watched as an indicator of overall consumer lending.

Still, bankers noted that card delinquencies generally rise in the third quarter and often remain steady or fall slightly in the fourth quarter.

Last year the delinquency rate was 3.45 percent in the third quarter and fell to 3.22 percent the following quarter.

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