While bankruptcy reform makes it way through Congress the number of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. is declining for the first time in four years. According to statistics released this week by Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, new bankruptcy filings during the second quarter declined from 373,460 last year to 345,956 this year. Over the past twelve months personal bankruptcies have declined 2%. Between July 1, 1998 and June 30, 1999, a total of 1,352,030 consumer bankruptcies were filed. During the same period 38,934 business bankruptcies were logged. Consumer bankruptcies should decline by 8-12% this year and be flat to down four percent in the year 2000 as a result of the strong job market and slower than anticipated credit growth, according to report also released this week by Piper Jaffray. CardWeb’s CardData service (www.carddata.com) has also tracked a decline in charge-offs, delinquencies and card-related bankruptcies since last fall. CardData says the percentage of gross charges involved in bankruptcy proceedings now stands at 42.1% compared to 44.0% last year. Piper Jaffray predicts the decline in personal bankruptcies will add from 3% to 37% more earnings power to major card issuers such as Capital One, American Express, Metris, MBNA, Providian, and the Associates.