Monday, Aug. 13, 2007, 08:00 PM UPDATED 11:59 AMBy Nick Zulovich
COSTA MESA, Calif. — Even though the Experian-Gallup Personal Credit Index rebounded to 95 in July after declining to 90 earlier this year, officials found that a large number of consumers are still uncomfortable making large purchases, such as cars.
More specifically, 50 percent of those questions indicated they are uncomfortable making a major purchase such as a home, car, big appliances or other big-ticket items over the next three months.
After reaching a high of 105 in January and February of this year, the index declined to 90 and 92 in March and May, respectively.
Some of the trends discovered by the study included:
—89 percent of consumers do not plan to apply for credit in the next three months.
—44 percent of consumers feel it is easier to get credit now than it was three months ago.
—30 percent of households with annual incomes of less than $40,000 are uncomfortable with their debt burden, while only 16 percent of households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more are uncomfortable.
—17 percent of consumers know someone who has been turned down for credit during the past three months.
Looking ahead, the companies found that 86 percent of consumers are very comfortable, 55 percent, or somewhat comfortable, 31 percent, in making their monthly payments on their overall debt.
"One of the key benefits of the personal credit index is its ability to provide insight on consumer perception of the credit markets," explained Dennis Jacobe, chief economist of the Gallup organization.
"Consumers are already decreasing their credit use. If regulators and the banks they regulate also decrease their credit use, and longer-term interest rates go higher, consumer credit purchases and the support their provide for the overall economy are likely to decline significantly in the months ahead," he added.
Officials indicated that credit perceptions have been negatively impacted by the subprime mortgage market, the sharp increase in housing foreclosures and the recent surge in long-term interest rates.
"Our survey showed that the highly publicized subprime mortgage market concern has resulted in some interesting opinions consumers have regarding how they view subprime mortgages and what should be done for those who have such loans should they face foreclosure," said Ty Taylor, president of Experian Consumer Direct.
Analyzing the mortgage market specifically, executives found:
—58 percent of consumers believe the problems in the subprime mortgage market will affect the overall mortgage market, while 24 percent feel the problems will be contained.
—61 percent of consumers familiar with subprime mortgage loans believe the problems in the subprime mortgage market will spill over into the overall mortgage market.
—55 percent of consumers believe the federal government should pass new legislation helping subprime borrowers keep their homes and avoid foreclosure.
Additionally, the companies revealed that 52 percent of consumers questioned feel the average price of homes in their area will increase over the next year, while 29 percent believe prices will remain similar to current trends.
Furthermore, 18 percent of consumers said they expect home prices to decrease in their area.
Talking directly to homeowners, officials found than 50 percent of this group anticipates an upswing in average homes prices, while 32 percent expects prices to remain the same.