•Consumer Bankruptcies in U.S. May Reach 1.4 Million on Job Losses, Credit

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    Consumer Bankruptcies May Hit 1.4 Million for 2009, Study Says
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    By Linda Sandler and Andrew M. Harris

    Aug. 10 (Bloomberg) --
    Consumer bankruptcies show no sign of abating after rising more than a third this year and may hit 1.4 million by Dec. 31 as jobs are lost and loans are harder to get, according to the trade group American Bankruptcy Institute.

    More than 126,000 consumers filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. last month, 34 percent more than in July 2008, the ABI said in its latest report on Aug. 4. The increase came after a 36.5 percent rise in personal bankruptcies nationwide in the first six months, to 675,351, according to the ABI research group, which interprets data collected by the National Bankruptcy Research Center.

    “Rising unemployment on top of high pre-exiting debt burdens is a formula for higher bankruptcies through the end of this year,” ABI Executive Director Samuel Gerdano said in a statement. The group, composed of lawyers, accountants, bankers and judges, is based in Alexandria, Virginia.

    Steeply rising filings by consumers are hurting commercial banks. JPMorgan Chase & Co., the second-largest U.S. bank, predicted more losses on consumer loans last month even as it announced a rise in second-quarter profit on record investment banking fees. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said he doesn’t expect the credit card business to make a profit this year or in 2010, and the company increased its loss projections for prime and subprime mortgages.

    Credit Card Losses

    JPMorgan said losses in its Chase credit-card portfolio may be 10 percent next quarter and will be “highly dependent” on unemployment after that. Losses for cards issued by Washington Mutual, which the bank acquired last September, may reach 24 percent by the end of the year, the company said.

    JPMorgan’s credit cards lost $672 million, compared with income of $250 million in the second quarter last year. Home- equity charge-offs climbed to $1.3 billion, or 4.61 percent. Prime mortgage defaults rose to $481 million, or 3.07 percent, from $104 million, or 1.08 percent a year earlier.

    Dimon, 53, said the firm supported “proper consumer protection” and that pending legislation setting up an agency to monitor consumer lending practices would hurt short-term profits in credit cards.

    Congress, in October 2005, enacted the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, a legislative reform package intended to make it harder for consumers to get court orders wiping out their uncollateralized debt.

    The act required debt counseling and a means test for would-be filers.

    To contact the reporters responsible for this story: Linda Sandler in New York at lsandler@bloomberg.net; Andrew M. Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net.
    Last Updated: August 10, 2009 11:09 EDT