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Credit card losses are rising at the fastest pace since the Great Financial Crisis

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Credit card companies are racking up losses at the fastest pace in almost 30 years, outside of the Great Financial Crisis, according to Goldman Sachs.

Credit card losses bottomed in September 2021, and while initial increases were likely reversals from stimulus, they have been rapidly rising since the first quarter of 2022. Since that time, it’s an increasing rate of losses only seen in recent history during the recession of 2008.

It is far from over, the firm predicts.

Losses currently stand at 3.63%, up 1.5 percentage points from the bottom, and Goldman sees them rising another 1.3 percentage points to 4.93%. This comes at a time when Americans owe more than $1 trillion on credit cards, a record high, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“We think delinquencies could continue to underperform seasonality through the middle of next year and don’t see losses peaking until late 2024 / early 2025 for most issuers,” analyst Ryan Nash wrote in a note Friday.

What is unusual is that the losses are accelerating outside of an economic downturn, he pointed out.

Of the past five credit card loss cycles, three were characterized by recessions, he said. The two that occurred when the economy was not in a recession were in the mid ’90s and 2015 to 2019, Nash said. He used history as a guide to determine further losses.

“In our view, this cycle resembles the characteristics of what was experienced in the late 1990s and somewhat similar to the ’15 to ’19 cycle where losses increase following a period of strong loan growth and has seen similar pace of normalization thus far this cycle,” Nash said.

History also shows that losses tend to peak six to eight quarters after loan growth peaks, he said. That implies the credit normalization cycle is only at its halfway point, hence the late 2024, early 2025 prediction, he said.

Nash sees the most downside risk for Capital One Financial,Discover Financial Services

— CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed reporting.

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