The delinquency rate on all residential loans fell slightly in the fourth quarter to 9.47% while "seriously delinquent" mortgages (90 days or more past due) continued to rise, according to new figures released by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Early Friday morning the trade group tried to put a positive spin on the overall delinquency rate, its Chief Economist Jay Brinkmann declaring, "We are likely seeing the beginning of the end of the unprecedented wave of mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures that started with the subprime defaults in early 2007."

Late payments by consumers fell 17 basis points in the fourth quarter (compared with the third), but were up 159 basis points compared to the same period a year earlier.

However, these figures are seasonally adjusted — and do not include foreclosures. (The seriously delinquent rate does include foreclosures.)

The non-seasonally adjusted numbers show a bleaker picture: 10.44% of all home loans were late by 30 days or more compared to 9.94% in the third quarter.

Also, the numbers for Florida continue to be abysmal with 26% of all mortgages there late by one month or more.

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