Sunday, September 16, 2012

Valley bankruptcies keep plummeting

Phoenix-area bankruptcies continue to drop at a double-digit pace, falling by more than one-fourth in August compared with August 2011.

The 1,809 filings last month were down nearly 26 percent from 2,431 in August 2011, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix. The latest results marked the 19th straight month of bankruptcies declining on a year-over-year basis and the 14th consecutive double-digit decrease.

For 2012 to date, Valley bankruptcies are down nearly 26 percent.

The latest results come despite mixed signals, including a continuing sluggish employment market. An August survey of 500 Valley residents by Country Financial showed a slide in local financial optimism to the study's lowest reading since June 2009.

Conversely, loan defaults have eased, housing prices have improved and employment growth, although sub-par, remains on an upward trajectory.

In a report, Phoenix economist John Crosby said he expects "continued modest to moderate growth" for the economy into early next year. Sherry Cooper, chief economist of BMO Financial Group, cited the housing upturn, high housing affordability, rising auto sales, strong performance by corporations and the pending conclusion of the presidential campaign as signs for optimism.

Credit-card debt among Valley residents is down 16 percent over the past year through August to an average $4,948, researcher Credit Karma reported. Credit-card debt is a key type of borrowing that consumers seek to jettison in bankruptcy. Average mortgage- and student-loan balances also have dropped for Phoenix-area residents over the past year, the company reports, although auto-loan borrowings have risen.

For all of Arizona, the 2,479 bankruptcies in August were down 23 percent from 3,224 one year earlier.

Nationally, the 104,336 total filings in August represented a 14 percent decline from August 2011, the American Bankruptcy Institute and researcher Epiq Systems reported. U.S. filings rose 7 percent last month compared with July, while Valley bankruptcies were down 2 percent from July.

"While the August totals rose slightly over last month, we remain on course for the lowest total new bankruptcies since before the financial crisis in 2008," said the ABI's executive director, Samuel Gerdano, commenting on the national trend.

by Russ Wiles - Sept. 11, 2012 The Republic |

Valley bankruptcies keep plummeting

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