Mortgage loans that are 90 days or more delinquent have dropped for five straight quarters and are at their lowest since the beginning of 2009, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported.

In an analysis of data collected in the first quarter, the group found that the start of foreclosure proceedings was the lowest since the end of 2008.

"The percentage of loans somewhere in foreclosure is down from last quarter's record high, and also had one of the largest drops we have ever seen, although the reasons for the drop will differ from market to market," said association chief economist Jay Brinkmann.

In the first quarter, 8.10 percent of U.S. mortgages were considered seriously delinquent, down from 9.54 percent a year ago. Foreclosure inventory totaled 4.52 percent of all homes compared with 4.63 percent the year before, the group said.    -Alan J. Heavens