In a sharp change from the recent past, FICO’s quarterly Survey of Bank Risk Professionals found greater optimism about the health of U.S. consumers than at any point in the past year, with survey respondents expecting delinquency rates on car loans, credit cards and small business loans to decline. However, bankers remain concerned about mortgage foreclosures and credit availability for small businesses. The survey is conducted for FICO (NYSE:FICO) by the Professional Risk Managers’ International Association (PRMIA). The results were analyzed by the Columbia University Business School. Delinquencies expected to declineIn a clear departure from FICO’s survey results throughout 2010, respondents in the latest quarterly survey expected delinquencies on most types of consumer credit to decrease. By a margin of 36 percent to 28 percent, survey respondents expected credit card delinquencies to fall rather than rise over the next six months; the margin for auto loans was 37 percent to 24 percent; and the margin for small business loans was 36 percent to 31 percent. “These results are the latest sign that America’s economic recovery appears to be gaining momentum,” said Dr. Andrew Jennings, chief analytics officer at FICO and head of FICO Labs. “This is the first time since we initiated the survey a year ago that we have seen more bankers expecting delinquency rates to decline rather increase. This is consistent with other data, such as a decline in the unemployment rate and falling consumer indebtedness, that indicate consumer health is improving.” An area of pessimism among the bankers surveyed continues to be the housing sector. Respondents believe that mortgages and home equity lines will see an increase in delinquencies. While 18 percent of respondents expected mortgage delinquencies to decline over the next six months, 42 percent expected the number to rise. Similarly, 40 percent of bankers surveyed expected delinquencies on home equity lines to increase while 21 percent expected delinquencies to fall.
Credit gap narrowingIn another positive sign, the latest quarterly survey found that expectations for credit demand and credit supply are nearing equilibrium. While 53% of respondents expected the amount of credit requested by consumers to increase, 50% expected the amount of consumer credit extended by lenders to increase. That is the closest these numbers have been in the past year, suggesting that lenders are beginning to meet the consumer demand for credit.Small businesses still face an expected credit gap, although access to credit appears to be expanding. In the latest survey, 84 percent of respondents expected credit demand to increase among small businesses. That compares to 60 percent who expected credit supply to increase. However, only 37 percent of respondents in the previous survey expected the credit supply for small businesses to increase. Interest rates and credit utilization expected to increaseWith interest rates on many consumer credit products at historically low levels in 2010, survey respondents are expecting to see rates increase in the first six months of 2011. By a margin of 54 percent to 2 percent, respondents expected interest rates for consumers to go up rather than down. However, respondents don’t expect the increase to be dramatic. When asked if interest rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages would go above six percent in 2011 for consumers with strong credit histories, 52 percent of respondents said no. By contrast, 35 percent said yes. In a sign that Americans still have an appetite for credit, 41 percent of survey participants expected credit card balances to increase over the next six months, while 24 percent expected balances to decrease. This result comes despite the fact that consumer indebtedness has dropped in 28 of the past 29 months. A detailed report of the survey results is available at http://www.prmia.org/PRMIA-News/USConsumerCreditRiskqtr1.pdf. The survey included responses from 216 risk managers at banks throughout the U.S. in February 2011. FICO and PRMIA extend a special thanks to the Columbia University Business School’s Center for Decision Sciences for its assistance in analyzing the survey results. About PRMIAThe Professional Risk Managers’ International Association (PRMIA) is a higher standard for risk professionals, with 60 chapters around the world and over 70,000 members in nearly 200 countries. A non-profit, member-led association, PRMIA is dedicated to defining and implementing the best practices of risk management through education, including the Professional Risk Manager (PRM) designation and Associate PRM certificate; webinar, online, classroom and in-house training; events; networking; and online resources. More information can be found at www.PRMIA.org. About FICOFICO (NYSE:FICO) delivers superior predictive analytics that drive smarter decisions. The company’s groundbreaking use of mathematics to predict consumer behavior has transformed entire industries and revolutionized the way risk is managed and products are marketed. FICO’s innovative solutions include the FICO® Score – the standard measure of consumer credit risk in the United States – along with industry-leading solutions for managing credit accounts, identifying and minimizing the impact of fraud, and customizing consumer offers with pinpoint accuracy. Most of the world’s top banks, as well as leading insurers, retailers, pharma businesses and government agencies rely on FICO solutions to accelerate growth, control risk, boost profits, and meet regulatory and competitive demands. FICO also helps millions of individuals manage their personal credit health through www.myFICO.com. FICO: Make every decision count. FICO Statement Concerning Forward-Looking InformationExcept for historical information contained herein, the statements contained in this news release that relate to FICO or its business are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the “safe harbor” provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially, including the success of the Company’s Decision Management strategy and reengineering plan, the maintenance of its existing relationships and ability to create new relationships with customers and key alliance partners, its ability to continue to develop new and enhanced products and services, its ability to recruit and retain key technical and managerial personnel, competition, regulatory changes applicable to the use of consumer credit and other data, the failure to realize the anticipated benefits of any acquisitions, continuing material adverse developments in global economic conditions, and other risks described from time to time in FICO’s SEC reports, including its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended September 30, 2010. If any of these risks or uncertainties materializes, FICO’s results could differ materially from its expectations. 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