Mortgages in Foreclosure Tie Record High

In a further sign of the still-depressed state of the U.S. housing market, a new report released Thursday shows the percentage of mortgages mired in foreclosure tied a record high during the fourth quarter of last year.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the share of U.S. mortgages in foreclosure stood at 4.63% last quarter, up from 4.39% the prior quarter and above the 4.58% level from the fourth quarter of 2009.

However, the number of home loans entering the foreclosure process dipped a bit, coming in at 1.27% last quarter, compared with 1.34% during the third quarter of 2010. That’s still above the 1.20% of home loans entering the foreclosure process during the fourth quarter of 2009.

“As we had predicted last quarter, the percent of loans in the foreclosure process increased in the fourth quarter, largely due to the foreclosure paperwork issues that were being addressed in September and October," Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s vice president for single-family research, said in the report.

MBA said the delinquency rate, which measures loans at least one month past due but not in the foreclosure process, slid to a seasonally-adjusted rate of 8.22% of all loans outstanding, compared with 9.13% the prior quarter and 9.47% a year earlier.

Shares of major U.S. banks remained in the red in the wake of the report, including Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM).

The foreclosure report comes a day after the Commerce Department said U.S. housing starts soared 14.6% in January, blowing away forecasts from analysts for a rise of just 0.2%.