CHARLOTTE, N.C. - What's in your mailbox? Chances are, fewer credit-card applications.

Faced with a slumping economy, the nation's financial services companies have cut back sharply on their direct mail this year. Such unsolicited mailings from banking, credit card, investment and mortgage loan companies fell 12.7 percent in the first quarter of 2008 compared with the same period a year ago, according to research compiled by Chicago-based Mintel Comperemedia.

"One of the main drivers definitely has to do with the economy," Mintel senior analyst Chris Zagorski said. "With credit lines tapped and people struggling to make ends meet, both consumer spending and savings are down."

The recent drop follows a year of steady decline as banks and consumer lenders reassess their marketing to credit-stretched consumers. At the same time, credit card and loan delinquencies keep rising. And competition within the U.S. credit card market has taken on more importance given industry consolidation and slower balance growth, said Credit Suisse analyst Moshe Orenbuch.

The number of credit card and other offers landing in consumers' mailboxes remains staggering: Financial services companies sent an estimated 4.2 billion pieces of direct mail in the first quarter, down nearly 10 percent from 4.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Among financial services companies, credit card issuers cut back the most. Estimated mail volume for credit cards fell nearly 14 percent in the first quarter to roughly 2.6 billion mailings. Mortgage and loan companies cut their mail offers 6 percent.

Of last year's top 10 credit card mailers, JPMorgan Chase & Co. reduced its direct mail the most - 34 percent - during the first quarter. (It has its credit card operations in Wilmington.) London-based HSBC Holdings P.L.C. followed with a 23.3 percent reduction, and Bank of America Corp. (which also has card operations in Wilmington) cut its direct mailings 17.5 percent.