Home lending defies property downturn, Australia takes debt gold medal
Home lending has posted a surprise increase, as an economic analysis showed Australian households are the world's most indebted.
Research by Philip Soos from LF Economics - using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Bank for International Settlements and OECD - showed that Australian households have debt totalling 123.08 per cent of the nation's annual economic output (GDP).
The figures from the third quarter of 2015 showed that Australia overtook Denmark, where unconsolidated household debt to GDP fell to 122.99 per cent.
Switzerland was in third place with a ratio of 121.3, while the Netherlands was the only other country studied where the ratio was over 100.
"Denmark long held this unholy accomplishment, but has been slowly deleveraging over the last several years as its housing bubble peaked and burst during the GFC," Mr Soos wrote in an opinion piece in The Guardian.
"The latest debt-financed boom in Sydney and Melbourne has resulted in Australia now overtaking Denmark."
Mr Soos argued this was yet another sign that Australia is in the midst of a massive housing bubble.
"Government, the FIRE sector (finance, insurance and real estate) and the mainstream economics profession deny the existence of a real estate bubble," he wrote.
"Contrary to the analyses of the vested interests, the data clearly establishes Australia is in the midst of the largest housing bubble on record."
Home lending surprisingly rises again
Home lending has surprised analysts with its strength in the face of tighter restrictions on investor loans and slowing major property markets.
Bureau of Statistics figures for November showed a 1.8 per cent increase in the number of loans being issued to owner-occupiers, to 56,798 (seasonally adjusted).
Analysts surveyed by Reuters had typically expected a small fall of 0.5 per cent.
Perhaps more surprising was a 0.7 per cent increase in the value of new property investment lending being approved by banks to $11.55 billion.
Restrictions by the banking regulator APRA, enforced in earnest from around the middle of the year, had been expected to crimp real estate investment.
However, the 0.7 per cent rate of monthly growth was comfortably below APRA's desired speed limit of 10 per cent per annum.
Deutsche Bank economist Phil O'Donaghoe observed that investor finance was still down 7.7 per cent in year-ended terms after six consecutive months of decline leading up to November.
"Despite the rise in investor finance in the month, the weaker trend in investor finance is consistent with evidence elsewhere of softer housing market conditions in the closing months of 2015," he wrote in a note on the data.
"One of the key impacts of the tighter lending conditions for investors has been an unwinding of the very unusual situation that prevailed between mid-2014 and mid-2015 where new finance extended to investors was greater than new finance extended to owner-occupiers."
Westpac economist Matthew Hassan agreed that the November rise in investor finance was probably an aberration.
"One observation is not enough to base a form a firm view on ongoing trends," he wrote in an analysis of the figures.
"Indeed we would tend to see it as a bit of a head fake with most other market indicators still pointing to a clear slowing in demand."
Aside from tougher lending rules, investors were also likely to have been deterred by stagnating rents in most cities, and falling rents in some, leaving income growth from real estate investment in doubt.
The rise in lending contrasts with a fall in home prices nationally in November and a flat result for December, but loan approvals tend to run ahead of housing transactions by some months.
Credit rating agency Fitch now expects Australian home prices to post moderate growth of just 2 per cent this year, after a big 10 per cent-plus run up in 2015.
Source: ABC News