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Average Credit Card Debt, Late Payments Fall In 1Q

The national unemployment rate remains at an elevated 7.5 percent, but that's down from a high of 10 percent in October 2009. The economy has been steadily adding jobs, home values are rising nationally and the stock market has been on a sustained upswing, with the Dow Jones industrial average index up about 17 percent this year.

Those factors have helped boost confidence among consumers, making them feel wealthier and more willing to spend.

Even so, many remain careful about how they manage their debt.

Average credit card debt per borrower fell 1.7 percent to $4,878 in the first quarter from $4,962 in the same period last year, TransUnion said.

On a quarterly basis, it declined 4.8 percent from $5,122 in the fourth quarter.

TransUnion, however, has forecast that average credit card debt will rise by roughly 8 percent to $5,446 by the end of this year â¿¿ the highest level in four years.

Meanwhile, the number of new credit card accounts opened by consumers continued to decline as 2012 drew to a close.

The data lags by a quarter, so the latest TransUnion figures cover the October-December period. They show that the number of new credit card accounts fell 1.6 percent from the same period in 2011.

The share of cards issued to borrowers with less-than-sterling credit slipped to 28.1 percent from 28.4 percent a year earlier. That's still above the 27.7 percent share in the fourth quarter of 2010, however.

In the VantageScore credit rating scale, consumers with a score lower than 700 on a scale of 501-990 are considered non-prime borrowers.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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