As borrower delinquencies rose, TransUnion LLC's Credit Risk Index increased 2.3%, to 123.36 in last year’s fourth quarter from the previous quarter.

Slight rises in delinquency rates in the fourth quarter on credit cards and mortgages contributed to the index's increase, Charlie Wise, director of research and consulting at TransUnion, said in a press release. The increase in the percentage of nonprime consumers with an active bankcard may have also contributed.

"As lenders make credit more widely available at the riskier end of the credit spectrum, it is inevitable that the risk of default will increase for the population on average," Wise said.

This was the first increase in the measure since the fourth quarter of 2009, when it peaked, the Chicago-based company said March 13

The index measures the risk inherent in the U.S. credit-using population. A higher number means a higher level of credit risk.

Increases generally are expected during the last three months of the year because of holiday shopping, TransUnion said.

South Carolina had the highest index at 156.13, followed by Nevada at 155.95 and Mississippi at 155.48. North Dakota had the lowest at 77.37.

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