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Mortgage delinquencies rise

WASHINGTON - Late mortgage payments climbed to a 2 1/2-year high in the final quarter of 2005 as Gulf Coast homeowners struggled with fallout from the hurricanes and lofty energy prices along with rising interest rates squeezed the budgets of others across the country.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, in its quarterly mortgage survey, reported yesterday that the percentage of mortgage payments that were 30 or more days past due for all loans tracked rose to 4.7 percent in the October-to-December quarter of last year.

That was up from the prior quarter's 4.44 percent and 4.38 percent at the end of the fourth quarter of 2004 and was the highest since the second quarter of 2003.

The figures are seasonally adjusted and apply to 41.2 million loans on one-to-four unit residential properties.

Ohio and Michigan, typically among the states with the highest delinquency rates, had rates of 6.67 percent and 6.88 percent, respectively, the report showed.

The quarter's foreclosure rate on mortgages was 0.42 percent, compared with 0.46 percent in the year-ago quarter and 0.41 percent in the third quarter.

In Ohio, 0.89 percent of loans were entering foreclosure during the period, trailing only Indiana, at 0.98 percent, nationally.

If Hurricane Katrina's effects were removed from national statistics, the total delinquency rate would have been 4.55 percent in the fourth quarter.

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