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Regulators have shown significant concerns over the millions of people in the U.S. that have fallen behind on paying car loans, even as vehicle lending continues its boom at close to a record pace.
This week, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said that increasing distress amongst auto borrowers that have less than stellar credit rose during the September 30 ending third quarter.
During the third quarter, 2% of the balance of subprime auto loans became 90 days delinquent, which was up from 1.6% during the 2014 third quarter.
While in the recession, during the 2009 second quarter, the same rate peaked at just over 2.4%.
The increased distress level that is associated with delinquencies in subprime loans is of concern, said researchers at the Fed in New York on Wednesday.
The report marks the most concern to date from the Fed about stressed subprime auto loans. The New York Fed reviews the trends in borrowing by households in the U.S. each quarter.
The growing delinquencies come during a time when the rate of unemployment is low and borrowers should typically be able to make payments to their loans on time.
That this type of serious trouble has emerged in what has been called a good economy could suggest that lenders have loosened their lending standards and allowed borrowers to take on higher debt that they might be able to afford.
Economists are worried that if the U.S. economy were to dip into another recession, the large number of loans that could fall into a repossession phase, about 6 million would swell to new record levels.
Even though the delinquency rate for subprime loans might be, lower at this time than in the aftermath immediately following the financial crisis.
Wall Street economists have become concerned over the actual number of people in the U.S. who have fallen behind on car payments due to many more having auto loans that are subprime in comparison to 2009.
However, experts in the industry have dismissed the comparisons being made between the auto loans that are subprime and the mortgage bubble, which led to the financial crisis.
In 2008, there were trillions of dollars in investments that correlated to the housing market in the U.S. While the auto loan market is huge, with an outstanding loan balance of $1 trillion, any defaults are not likely to create the same cascading effects on banks that foreclosures on homes did.