Given there has been a financial recovery of sorts, but no recovery at all on main street, it should not be surprising to see Credit-Card Delinquencies Rise Again.

The rate of charge-offs on U.S. credit cards rose more than a half-percentage point in November, snapping a two-month run of drops from an all-time high in August, and delinquencies rose for the fourth consecutive month, Moody’s Investors Service said.

Charge-offs, which are those loans a credit-card company doesn’t think it will be able to collect, were 10.6% for November, compared with 10% in October. The ratings firm also said the delinquency rate, which gives a glimpse of issuers’ potential losses and how much they may need to set aside in reserves, rose to 6.2% in November.

Bank of America Now Choking on Growth at any Cost Policy

Please consider New Chief at Bank of America Seeks Credit-Card Fix

When Bank of America Corp.’s new chief executive takes over next week, one of the first problems he will face is one he’s already been grappling with—the bank’s credit-card business.

“We gave a lot of cards out to our customers,” Mr. Moynihan said in a Nov. 5 speech. “We were giving them to too many people.” He discussed a “repositioning” of the business that would rely less on borrowing and more on card transactions, while acknowledging that the business won’t be as big or as profitable as it used to be.

Bank of America is the second-largest U.S. card issuer, after J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and the card division accounts for 23% of BofA’s revenue through the first nine months of 2009. Yet cards also lost $4.5 billion during that same period, making it the worst-performing Bank of America business line. It also had a default rate higher than other major rivals, at 13%.

The current problems have their root in Bank of America’s push to become No. 1 in the card business. In 2006, it purchased MBNA Corp., one of the nation’s biggest credit card issuers, for $35 billion, hoping to combine the card company’s marketing and underwriting skills with its own massive branch network.

But in its pursuit of market share, Bank of America made poor underwriting decisions and the banking crisis of the last two years exposed many of those flaws. While trying to become the nation’s No. 1 small-business lender it offered unsecured credit lines of up to $100,000 to start-ups, some in business for only one day. Bank of America’s small-business default rate hit 17.5% in the third quarter of 2009.

Another misstep for Bank of America, said FBR Capital Markets analyst Paul Miller, was that it took too long to cut credit lines as customers went delinquent. BofA “always took a more optimistic view of the economy,” he said.

Bank of America Credit Chargeoffs vs. Allowances

Chart from the WSJ article above, I added the arrows.

Note that chargeoffs are increasing while provisions are collapsing. Also note that the chart only pertains to credit cards. What about residential real estate, home equity loans, commercial real estate, industrial loans, etc etc?

While some keep pretending there are excess reserves to be lent out, I scoff at the idea.

Assets at Banks whose ALLL exceeds their Nonperforming Loans

The above chart courtesy of the St. Louis Fed.

Because allowances for loan losses are a direct hit to earnings, and because allowances are at ridiculously low levels, bank earnings (and capitalization ratios) are wildly over-stated.

Excess Reserves? Please be serious.

For more on excess reserves please see Fictional Reserve Lending And The Myth Of Excess Reserves.

With unemployment at 10% and not headed significantly lower for years, and with allowances for loans and lease losses in the gutter, expect banks to be forced to raise more capital as credit card losses continue to mount.

Still more shareholder dilution via secondary offerings is on the way.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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