The average U.S. credit card chargeoff rate for most major issuers remains on track to continue declining for at least the next few months, according to analysts at Moody's Investors Service.
Moody's plans to announce the average March chargeoff rate for the credit card industry and the average delinquency rates for that month this week, according to Jeffrey Hibbs, a Moody's analyst.
The average credit card chargeoff rate, which ticked up in February to 7.56% after a five-month streak of declines, for March is "likely to go lower than 7.5%," Hibbs said.
The most significant new clue to overall improving consumer credit is that the delinquency rate on accounts 30 to 59 days past due, a prime indicator of card portfolio health, also fell for most issuers in March, which was not the case for March over the past few years, Hibbs said.
"During the past three years, as we endured the recession and financial crisis, credit card delinquency rates notably ticked up during March when post-holiday spending setbacks rolled into delinquency files," Hibbs said. "That's not the case this year, which indicates to us that another negative factor in the recent bad credit cycle has been broken."
Moody's is sticking with its forecast that the average U.S. chargeoff rate will dip below 7% at some point during the second quarter. However, it is impossible to know when chargeoff rates, which climbed to a recent peak of 11.5% in early 2010, will bottom out, Hibbs said.
"As long as we continue to see improving credit quality and strong payment rates among cardholders, the chargeoff rate will continue to decline … whereas a rise in early-stage delinquency rates would indicate we are likely to see chargeoffs begin to rise again," he said.