* ABA: loan delinquencies fell in 11 categories it tracks
* Group says overall delinquency levels still high
* Increased gasoline prices could boost delinquency rates - ABA
WASHINGTON, April 5 (Reuters) - Timely repayments improved on all 11 of the consumer loan categories tracked by the American Bankers Association in the final quarter of last year, the first time that has happened since 2004, according to the organization's chief economist.
The ABA said delinquency rates still remain high as the economy slowly recovers but the fourth quarter showed a marked improvement from the prior quarter in consumers' ability to make payments on auto loans, credit cards and other debts.
"The good news is that fewer people are losing their jobs and more people are becoming re-employed," ABA's James Chessen said in a statement on Thursday. "Those two factors combined means more people are better positioned to meet their debt obligations."
The ABA tracks late payments for bank-provided credit cards, auto loans, home equity lines of credit, and other consumer loans.
It does not, however, track delinquency rates for traditional mortgage payments.
The broad delinquency category that tracks eight types of loans fell to 2.49 percent from 2.59 percent.
That is the lowest level since 2008, the group said.
Delinquencies on payments for credit cards provided by a bank fell to 3.17 percent from 3.25 percent.
The ABA defines delinquency as a payment that is 30 days or more overdue.
The report said housing-related loans are not improving as much as other categories.
The delinquency rate for home equity loans fell to 4.08 percent from 4.12 percent.
Chessen said he expects delinquencies overall will continue to fall but not at the same rate as in the fourth quarter.
The recent spike in gasoline prices poses the biggest challenge, he said, as prices have risen 71 cents per gallon since mid-December.
"That's $70 billion that could have gone towards other kinds of spending or to pay down debt," he said.