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Put together, it's reason for "guarded optimism," Becker said.
"A lot of the data on the economy shows that we have either begun a recovery or we're on the brink of recovery," he said. Credit statistics typically lag the economy, he said, so delinquency improvements are a positive sign for things to come.
The statistics indicate "that we're coming out of the woods, even if we're not out of the woods yet," Becker said.
As a result of the improved delinquency rate, TransUnion has scaled back its forecast for credit card delinquencies for the rest of the year.
The agency now expects the 90-day credit card delinquency rate to reach just over 1.2 percent by the end of the year. That's a big revision from its prior forecast for a rate as high as 1.7 percent by year-end.
"Consumers are clearly managing their credit card obligations and lenders are clearly managing the risk in their portfolios," Becker said.
The big question in coming months is what effect new federal regulations on credit cards will have on the industry.
The Credit CARD Act started to kick in last week with rules that require banks to warn consumers 45 days in advance before raising interest rates, and to give them an option to close accounts and pay down balances at the old rates. Banks also have to give consumers 21 days to pay their bills after sending out statements.
In February, further rules will take effect regarding a host of issues, from how often credit card companies must review accounts after interest rate cuts to how cards are marketed to students. The aim is to give consumers more information regarding their credit and reduce surprises about things like interest rate hikes.
Becker said the law will have an impact on how banks lend and how consumers handle their credit.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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