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May 14 (Reuters) - The number of U.S. homeowners who fell behind on their mortgage payments climbed in the first quarter from an 18-year low at the end of 2018, while the share of mortgages at the start of foreclosure actions slipped, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Tuesday.
The delinquency rate for mortgages on one-to-four-unit homes rose to 4.42% in the first three months of 2019, up from 4.06% at the end of the fourth quarter which was the lowest level since the first quarter of 2000, MBA said.
Last quarter's delinquency rate, however, was 21 basis points lower than a year earlier.
The percentage of loans on which foreclosure actions began fell to 0.23%, from 0.25% in the fourth quarter of 2018. It was 5 basis points lower than a year earlier.
"The national mortgage delinquency rate in the first quarter of 2019 was down on a year-over-year basis, which is another sign of a very strong economic environment, bolstered by low unemployment and rising wage growth, Marina Walsh, MBAs vice president of industry analysis said in a statement. (Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Bernadette Baum)