NEW YORK -- Struggling credit card holders fell behind on their payments in October at the highest rate in five months, according to Fitch Ratings.
The agency said Wednesday that the weak job market and the high debt loads consumers are carrying pushed its measure of the 60-day credit card delinquency rate to 4.41 percent from 4.22 percent in September.
That's just below the record rate of 4.45 percent seen in June. Late payments declined during the summer months.
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Early stage delinquencies, or payments that are just one month past due, also rose, Fitch said. The increases followed bumps for both measures in September.
Fitch uses 60-days-past-due as an indicator of potential default. While it is still possible for consumers to make up payments when they are just two months past due, credit card companies often block further card use at that point, said Senior Director Cynthia Ullrich.
The result of the higher late payment rate will likely be higher charge-offs for banks and other credit card issuers. Charge-offs occur when a lender concludes the customer will no longer make payments, and writes down the balance on the account.
For October, Fitch's measure of credit card charge-offs declined to 10.09 percent from 10.75 percent in September, but that improvement doesn't seem likely to last long.
Fitch Managing Director Michael Dean said the problem is "the persistent weakness in the labor markets."
The agency expects to keep its ratings on the senior securities backed by credit cards debt despite the trend.
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