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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 7, 2010

Isles among best in U.S. in paying debt

BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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The poor economy and higher unemployment are continuing to take a toll on Hawai'i residents' ability to keep up with debt payments, though the state remains among the best in the country when it comes to credit risk.

A new report from credit reporting agency TransUnion said Hawai'i had a Credit Risk Index score of 99.28, or eighth lowest in the nation during the third quarter.

That was higher than the fourth quarter of 2008, when Hawai'i rated a 94.85 score, ranking it fifth best in the nation.

At the same time the report shows the state continues to be well below the national average and below the 100 index level that indicates higher risk.

There was a general increase in the credit risk index over the period, with the nationwide average rising to 129.3 from 124.79.

The credit reporting agency has been producing the index since 1998 as a way to measure changes in consumer credit risk in various states and regions.

It looks at a number of variables, including credit usage and performance, along with factors that can affect payments, including unemployment and the cost of living.

Hawai'i was one of nine states below the 100 level as the Credit Risk Index climbed to an all-time high at the national level during the third quarter. Mississippi was the riskiest state, at 167.22; North Dakota the least, at 82.06.

TransUnion also released its Insurance Risk Index showing Hawai'i was the fifth least riskiest from an insurance perspective in the third quarter.

The state's insurance risk was pegged at 96.0, compared to the national rate of 99.5.

TransUnion said the index is benchmarked to the national average of 100 in March 2001 and helps make comparisons across geographic and demographic segments. A state that has an index score of 110 is 10 percent risker than a state with a score of 100, the credit reporting agency said.

Montana had the highest Insurance Risk Index score, at 109.52. Alaska was lowest, at 95.16.

TransUnion said the Credit Risk Index increase rose by 0.8 percent between the second and third quarters. That's the smallest increase since the beginning of 2008.

"After several quarters of significant increases in the credit and insurance risk indices, it appears that the financial recovery is gaining momentum, as consumers are adapting their debt management approaches to cope with difficult economic times we are experiencing," Trans-Union official Chet Wiermanski said in a statement.

TransUnion said it expects the Credit Risk Index to continue rising through the remainder of 2009, even as the rate of increase slows. It said some states will show improved credit risk in coming months.