Credit Card Index Measures Record Number of 60-Day Delinquencies
A soft labor market pressured American credit card holders in December, according to analysts from Fitch Ratings. The company's December 2009 Credit Card Index measured Americans' ability to manage debt in November, with troubling results. Important indicators of accountholders' cash flow cycles remained near or exceeded record highs.

4.54% of accounts in the index reached 60-day delinquencies, beating Fitch's previous record of 4.45%. Charge-off accounts represented 10.69% of accounts in the survey, a remarkably high number that still fell short of September's record. Fitch analysts told reporters that, like unemployment, credit card delinquency rates often lag other economic indicators.

"U.S. consumer credit quality remains under considerable stress due to persistently weak labor market conditions," said Fitch spokesperson Michael Dean. "As a result, chargeoffs will retest their recent highs throughout the first half of 2010." Although new fees and higher rates have improved lenders' gross yield from credit cards to over 20%, fewer than 18% of Americans managed to pay off outstanding balances in November.

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Joe Taylor Jr. is an internal business consultant for a Fortune 500 company, who writes about finance, culture, and design. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Ithaca College.