Americans' household finances are eroding fast, a result of rising debt and falling home prices, and consumers increasingly are turning to their credit cards as a short-term fix, according to new research from Moody's, a division of Moody's Analytics. Consumers are behind schedule in payments or have walked away from nearly $800 billion in household debt of all types, including credit cards, mortgages and car loans, says Mark Zandi, Moody's chief economist and one of the nation's chief analysts of economic trends. Zandi contends household-credit quality arguably never has been worse. Sinking credit quality ripples far beyond consumers, affecting credit card companies and other financial firms that consequently see more accounts become delinquent, he says. Moody's Investor Service reported that the credit card charge-off rate, which measures credit card accounts that are considered uncollectible as an annual percentage of all outstanding loans, reached 6.27% in April, the highest level since December 2005. The Federal Reserve's latest monthly Consumer Credit Survey, the G.19 report, shows consumer credit outstanding, which includes revolving and nonrevolving credit, rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.6% in May to $2.57 trillion. Credit card borrowing rebounded in May after dropping in April for the first time since May 2005, according to that report, which states that revolving credit (98% of which involves credit card debt) rose to $961.8 billion in May, up slightly from $956.2 billion the previous month.

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