Most loan types through March saw decreases in default rates for the third consecutive month, according to S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices released Thursday. The bank card category was a notable exception to the drops.

"The first quarter of 2012 was largely positive for the consumer," says David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee for S&P Indices. "Not only have we resumed the downward trend in consumer default rates that began in the spring of 2009, but we appear to be reaching new lows across most loan types. The first three months of 2012 show broad based declines in default rates with first and second mortgage, auto and composite default rates all reaching post-recession lows."

The national composite declined to 1.96% in March from the 2.09% February rate. The first mortgage default rate decreased from February's 2.02% to March's 1.88%. Second mortgage and auto loans default rates also declined from 1.20% and 1.22% in February to 1.03% and 1.11% in March, respectively. Bank card was the only loan type where default rates increased in March to 4.47% from its 4.41% February level.

"The first mortgage default rate fell by 14 basis points in March, bringing this rate below the prior August 2011 low," Blitzer says. "The second mortgage rate fell by even more during the month, 17 basis points. Both second mortgage and auto default rates are also at their lowest in the three-plus year history of these data. While the bank card rate rose, it was not by much and is still close to the recent low reported just last month."

Additionally, four of the five cities examined by the Indices experiences drops in their default rates.

"For the third consecutive month, Chicago saw a decline, moving from 2.84% in December to 2.35% in March. That's almost half a percentage point and one of the two cities to post new lows. New York and Miami both fell for the second consecutive month. New York decreased slightly from 2.04% in February to 2.01% in March. Miami dropped almost a full percentage point, from 4.54% in February to 3.62% in March," says Blitzer. "While it still remains the highest default rate, Miami is the other city to hit a post-recession low. Dallas moved down from 1.61% in February to 1.44% in March and retains the lowest rate among the five cities we follow. Los Angeles was the only city where default rates marginally rose, from 1.87% to 1.88%."

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