The number of mortgage holders 60 days or more behind on their payments was 6.67% in the three months ended June 30, up from 5.81% in the year-ago period - and well above the 1.5% to 2% historical norm, reports credit-reporting agency TransUnion

Because it would be difficult for homeowners to make up two payments to bring their account current, TransUnion uses a 60-day delinquency rate as a warning sign of potential foreclosure. 

One positive sign amid the delinquency report is the statistic reveals a slower rate of increase from the pace seen a year ago. It also marks a slight improvement from the rate of 6.77% recorded during the first three months of the year, and it falls below the 6.89% record reached in the fourth quarter of 2009.

"We're seeing signs of recovering in terms of delinquency," says FJ Guarrera, vice president in TransUnion's financial services unit.

The data comes after foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said the number of U.S. homes lost to foreclosure in July surged 6% from last year. That jump indicates that more banks stepped up repossessions to clear out their backlog of bad loans. RealtyTrac also reported that foreclosure filings were up in 75% of U.S. metropolitan areas in the first half of 2010, see story.

"A lot of foreclosures continue to work their way through the system," Guarrera says. Although the delinquency data does look back a few months, it shows a slight improvement that could indicate foreclosures will start to slow, he adds.

The four states hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis - Nevada, Florida, Arizona and California - are driving up the numbers. In each, the rate is above 10%, with Nevada leading at 15.86%, compared to 13.8% a year ago. In Florida, the delinquency rate rose to 15%, from 12.3% last year.

North and South Dakota remain at the low end for the nation, at 1.61% and 2.23%, respectively.

TransUnion uses a sample of about 10% of its database of 270 million consumer credit reports to produce the statistics.

The figures point toward a very slow recovery. TransUnion expects the delinquency rate to drift down for the rest of the year, nearing 6.4% nationally by the end of 2010.

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