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Is a Wave of Credit Card Defaults on the Way?

Elliott Wave International's analysts have been keeping subscribers abreast of the financially dangerous levels of debt within the financial system.

Here's just one example from the June 2019 Global Market Perspective, a monthly publication which provides analysis and forecasts for 40-plus worldwide markets:

In April [2019], the Global Market Perspective pointed to an underlying problem: the depleted rainy-day preparedness of most consumers. A new poll shows that the situation may be even worse than we reported. According to a survey of 2,200 U.S. adults conducted by CNBC and Morning Consult, the average American now holds $6,506 in credit card debt and a majority have less than $1,000 in savings. More than 20% say the highest proportion of their credit card debt went to pay necessities such as rent, utilities and food, while a stunning 70% say they would "be in a difficult situation if their paycheck was delayed by a week."

Since then, the economic downturn of 2020 has left many consumers in an even more precarious position.

Here's an excerpt from an August 5 Bloomberg article:

Despite the coronavirus and millions of jobless claims driving the U.S. economy deeper into recession, the flood of credit card delinquencies that some predicted has yet to materialize. Instead, card debt has actually gone down since the pandemic struck, with many consumers spending less while using bailout money to chip away at balances.

But that may not last. Even if Congress passes a new rescue package with more unemployment benefits, the cumulative effect of the ongoing economic catastrophe may finally trigger that default deluge, a new survey reveals.

More than half of consumers with credit card debt said they will need more bailout money to make minimum payments over the next three months, but about the same number said employment will be more critical to avoiding default.

And right now, roughly 30 million Americans are claiming unemployment benefits.

"I think the overall trend [of credit card debt going down] masks some of the difficulty at the household level, and I do fear that we're going to have more people relying on cards for financing and relying on cards just to make ends meet," said... an industry analyst at CreditCards.com, which sponsored the survey.

More than one-third of respondents said they had credit card debt. Of those, three in 10 said a lack of additional money from Congress would have a major effect on their ability to make minimum payments between now and mid-October. But even so, 61% of respondents said that not being able to work in the coming months would affect their ability to pay, with majorities of currently full-time employed and unemployed people saying it would have a "major effect."