Timeshares Show Another Pocket of Consumer-Debt Weakness


Matt Scully February 23, 2017, 1:11 PM EST

Americans are missing more payments on their timeshares, according to Fitch Ratings, the latest sign of weakness around the edges of U.S. consumer credit.

About 3.75 percent of timeshare borrowers were behind on their bills in the fourth quarter, up from 3.37 percent in the same period a year earlier, and the highest level since the end of 2011, according to a Fitch report Thursday that looked at contracts that had been bundled into bonds. The weakness is evidence of companies becoming looser with financing to customers, Fitch said.

Companies offering the financing are also writing off more loans. The default rate rose to 0.70 percent in the fourth quarter from 0.61 percent in the same period a year earlier, according to the report. U.S. consumer credit quality is still broadly strong, but there have been pockets of weakness in areas including timeshares, online consumer loans and subprime auto loans.

The rising delinquencies come as Americans have loaded up on debt at the fastest pace in three years. U.S. household debt rose by $226 billion in the last three months of 2016, bringing total consumer debt to $12.58 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The figures, which include mortgages, student loans, auto loans and credit card debt, are just shy of the $12.68 trillion high-water mark from 2008.

“Debt held by Americans is approaching its previous peak, yet its composition today is vastly different as the growth in balances has been driven by non-housing debt,” Wilbert van der Klaauw, a senior vice president at the New York Fed, said earlier this month.