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Equifax: Auto-loan Originations At Eight-year High
ATLANTA (5/30/13)--Auto-loan originations and the number of new-auto loans in the U.S. each set eight-year highs during January and February, according to Equifax Inc.'s National Consumer Trends Report, released Wednesday.

The two months saw $69.6 billion originated in new credit for auto loans--more than 70% above the recession low of $40.2 billion for the same period in 2009, said the Atlanta-based credit information company.

Equifax noted that 3.5 million new-auto loans originated in January and February, with the total number of loans at 59.8 million, nearly a four-year high.  New loans funded during that time by credit unions, banks and thrifts increased by more than 20% to $35.6 billion from $29.5 billion.

"Sales of new cars and light trucks hit a five-year high in the first quarter on a seasonally adjusted basis, and consumers' demand for auto loans is similarly strong," said Equifax Chief Economist Amy Crews Cutts. 

"Light trucks in particular are in demand for the newly energized housing construction trade, and there is a lack of supply of used trucks available so prices on these vehicles are currently rising," said Crews Cutts.  "Consumers are also funding purchases of used cars with loans at attractive rates, and low delinquency rates are allowing lenders to make credit a bit more easily available."

For credit unions' loan portfolios, the auto-loan portion increased into a slightly bigger slice of the pie. New-auto loans in March accounted for 10.7% of loan portfolios, up from 10.1% in March 2012, according to the Credit Union National Association's March Monthly Credit Union Estimates. Used-auto loans in March were 19.4% of the loan portfolios, compared with 18.7% in 2012. (Note: CUNA's monthly estimates for April will be out early next week).

Other key findings:

  • Outstanding auto loan balances totaled $798 billion as of April, up more than 8% from the same time a year ago and a 51-month high;
  • The total number of loans is 59.8 million, nearly a four-year high;
  • As of April, total outstanding balances on loans funded by auto finance companies are $416.9 billion, a 50-month high, while the total number of outstanding loans is more than 31 million, a 46-month high; and
  • For outstanding balances funded by credit unions, banks and thrifts, balances totaled $381.1 billion, a more than 60-month high, while the number of loans outstanding totaled more than 28 million, a 41-month high.
Serious delinquencies on auto loans fell in April for loans funded by banks, credit unions and other depositories to 0.32% of outstanding balances, a 13.9% decline from March and a 9.1% drop from a year earlier.

For loans financed by auto finance companies, serious delinquencies dropped to 1.75% of outstanding balances--down 11.7% from March and 15.4% from April 2012.
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