Bank of America, the nation’s top lender and second-largest credit card issuer, reported a $5.2 billion loss, or 60 cents per share, for the fourth quarter, including its repayment to the government bailout program, compared to a loss of $2.4 billion a year earlier. But the bank sees a glimmer of hope in the “stabilization” of credit losses. Net charge-offs saw the first decline – compared to a previous quarter – in nearly four years.

Credit card delinquencies in December reached a record level of 4.54 percent, and charge-offs could climb higher in coming months, according to the latest Credit Card Index findings from Fitch Ratings. Delinquencies – account payments late 60 days or more – surpassed the previous high of 4.45 percent set in June 2009.

The Federal Trade Commission will review the practices of the nation’s top debt buyers, who often hire the debt collectors that are drawing complaints from consumers. When the debt-buying companies hire debt collectors, or assume the role on their own, mistakes are made that result in “debt collectors frequently try to collect from the wrong consumers or the wrong amounts, or both,” the FTC said.

Discover Financial Services, issuer of the Discover cards, today reported a 16 percent drop in profit for its fourth quarter, with climbing credit card defaults playing a part in its bottom line. Discover – the sixth-largest credit card issuer – reported net income of $371, or 63 cents a share, for its fourth quarter ended Nov. 30, down 16 percent from $444 million, or 89 cents a share, in the same period last year.

American Express outshined credit card competitors in November with declines in defaults and late payments – reaching new lows for the year in those two vital categories. AmEx – the top credit card provider based on purchase volume – said defaults slipped to 7.6 percent in November, from 7.8 percent the previous month, the seventh consecutive monthly drop.

Analysts at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch today upgraded three credit card companies – American Express (AXP), Capital One (COF) and Discover (DFS) – to neutral from underperform, bolstored in part by the better-than-expected jobs report on Friday.

Credit card late payments that were more than 60 days overdue continued an upward trend, falling just short of record highs, according to Fitch Ratings. Fitch’s latest credit card delinquencies report for October shows late payments rising to their highest levels in five months

Auto loan delinquencies edged upward for third quarter 2009, while the average auto debt slipped to $12,542, according to TransUnion’s analysis. The year-over-year delinquency rate was up by 1.25 percent in the third quarter, the credit reporting bureau said.

Credit losses continue on the rise, and banks are facing “sizable additional” losses, particularly as a result of poor demand from credit-worthy borrowers. The picture Greenlee drew suggested that a crisis is still brewing, and possibly yet to peak, in the commercial lending arena, fueled by the sharp declines in the value of commercial properties and land.