Hurricane Sandy is likely to stir up credit card delinquencies in the next month or so, but performance remained strong in the batch of reports posted last week.
With billing cycles generally closed before the giant storm made landfall in the Northeast, numbers on late accounts and chargeoffs were generally stable in October. (For interactive data that lets you zoom in on custom time periods and highlight individual issuers, click here.)
At JPMorgan Chase, the portion of balances past due by 30 to 60 days was flat in September at 0.60%, and the chargeoff rate slipped 7 basis points to 3.47% during a month when both measures tend to increase seasonally. (Chargeoff rates represent the annualized amount of receivables determined to be uncollectible as a percentage of total outstanding loans.)
At Capital One, early-stage delinquencies inched up 4 basis points to 1.02%, though turbulence from the company’s accounting for the acquisition of a $30 billion portfolio from HSBC in May is likely to have been stronger than the impact from Sandy.
Gary Perlin, the company’s chief financial officer, told investors last week that fee waivers might reduce revenues a bit, and some borrowers could fall behind because of disruptions from the storm. But insurance payouts and federal assistance will help cardholders catch up, and, using Hurricane Katrina as a guide, Perlin said, “We would not be surprised to see that the effect on us, overall, is immaterial.”
In a note Nov. 13, Standard & Poor’s said its ratings of bonds backed by card loans would probably not be affected by Sandy. Cardholders are likely to make up missed payments once power is restored, the ratings agency said. “We believe the vast majority of the storm-related delinquencies that occur in early November will likely be cured before the end of the month.”
The storm could also temporarily lift spending volume as customers make unanticipated charges for things like home repairs and lodging, according to S&P, but the overall effect should be passing.
On the question of whether the low loss rates issuers have managed to post this year represent a “new normal,” Perlin was cautious. Though he said he does not expect a sudden deterioration, “there is a reason to believe that we are, today, better than cycle average.”
Discover Chief Executive David Nelms sounded a similar note last week, telling investors, “I would have expected by now things would start to have at least plateaued, if not be edging up. So now I expect that to happen, maybe beginning in next year.”