APRA’s Latest On IO and Investment Loans

Wayne Byres, APRA chairman appeared before the Senate Economics Legislation Committee today.

During the session he said that the 10% cap on banks lending to housing investors imposed in December 2014 was “probably reaching the end of its useful life” as lending standards have improved. Essentially it had become redundant.

But the other policy which is a limit of more than 30% of lending interest only will stay in place. This more recent additional intervention, dating from March 2017, will stay for now, despite it being a temporary measure. The 30% cap is based on the flow of new lending in a particular quarter, relative to the total flow of new lending in that quarter.

This all points to tighter mortgage lending standards ahead, but still does not address the risks in the back book.

But the tougher lending standards which are now in place will be part of the furniture, plus the new capital risk weightings recently announced. Its all now focussing on loan serviceability, something which should have been on the agenda 5 years ago!

The evidence before the Senate on mortgage fraud is worth watching.

He also included some interesting and relevant charts.

Around 10% of new loans are still Loan to income is still tracking above 6 times loan to income.

This despite a fall in high LVR new loans.

The volume of new interest only loans is down, 20% of loans from the major banks are interest only, higher than other ADI’s

Overall investor loan growth is lower, in fact small ADI’s have slightly higher growth rates than the majors.

As a result of the changes the share of new interest only loans has dropped below the target 30%, to about 20%.

And investor loans are growing at less than 5% overall, significantly lower than previously.

So you could say the APRA caps have worked, but more permanent and calibrated measures are the future.

More broadly, here are his remarks:

I’d like to start this morning by highlighting the importance of the Financial Sector Legislation Amendment (Crisis Resolution Powers and Other Measures) Bill 2017 which – with the welcome endorsement of this Committee – was recently passed into law by the Parliament.

The Bill delivers a long-awaited and much needed strengthening of APRA’s crisis management powers, better equipping us to deal with a financial crisis and thereby to protect the financial well-being of the Australian community. Put simply, these powers give us enhanced tools to fulfil our key purpose in relation to banking and insurance: to protect bank depositors and insurance policyholders. That purpose is at the heart of all that we do, and the legislation is designed with that protection very much in mind.

With the Bill now passed, the task ahead for APRA is to invest in the necessary preparation and planning to make sure the tools within the new legislation can be effectively used when needed. We hope that is neither an imminent nor common occurrence, but we have much work to do in the period ahead to make sure we, along with the other agencies within the Council of Financial Regulators that will be part of any crisis response, have done the necessary homework to use these new powers effectively when the time comes.

So that is one key piece of work for us in the foreseeable future. But it is far from the only issue on our plate. With the goal of giving industry participants and other stakeholders more visibility and a better understanding of our work program, we released a new publication in January this year outlining our policy priorities for the year ahead across each of the industries we supervise.1 Initial feedback has welcomed this improved transparency of the future pipeline of regulatory initiatives, and the broad timeline for them.

That publication is one example of our ongoing effort to improve our processes of engagement and consultation with the financial sector and other stakeholders. Another prominent example is that we’ve just embarked on our most substantial program of industry engagement to date as we seek input into the design and implementation of our next generation data collection tool.2 Through this process, which we launched on Monday this week, all of our stakeholders will have an opportunity to tell us – at an early stage of its design – what they would like to see the new system deliver, as well as influence how we roll it out.

More generally, and recognising the increased expectations of all public institutions, I thought it would also be timely to briefly recap the ways APRA is accountable for the work we do supervising financial institutions for the benefit of the Australian community. At a time when Parliament has moved to strengthen APRA’s regulatory powers, we fully accept that these accountability measures take on added importance. They play a crucial role in reassuring all of our stakeholders that APRA is acting at all times according to our statutory mandate.

APRA’s accountability measures are many and varied. They start with the obvious measures such as our Annual Report, our Corporate Plan and Annual Performance Statement, and our assessment against the Government’s Regulator Performance Framework. We obviously also make regular appearances before Parliamentary committees such as this to answer questions about our activities, and now meet with the Financial Sector Advisory Council in their role reporting on the performance of regulators. Our annual budget, and the industry levies that fund us, are set by the Government, which also issues us a Statement of Expectations as to how we should approach our role. We comply with the requirements of the Office of Best Practice Regulation in our making of regulation, and our prudential standards for banking and insurance may be disallowed by Parliament, should it so wish.

To give greater visibility to these mechanisms, we have recently set out an overview of our accountability requirements – including some that we impose on ourselves – on our website so that they can be better understood by our stakeholders.3

I’d like to also note that we will be subject to additional scrutiny this year through two other means:

  • We expect that aspects of APRA’s activities will be of interest to the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. We have already provided, at their request, documents and information to the Commission, and will continue to cooperate fully as it undertakes its important work.
  • We will be subject to extensive international scrutiny from the IMF over the year ahead as part of its 2018 Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP).4 The FSAP will look at financial sector vulnerabilities and regulatory oversight arrangements in Australia, providing a report card on Australia (and APRA in particular) against internationally-accepted principles of sound prudential regulation. As was the case previously, we expect the IMF to find things we could do better. APRA is ready, along with other members of the regulatory community, to give the IMF our full cooperation and look forward to their feedback.

Finally, time does not permit me to discuss our on-going work in relation to housing lending but, anticipating some questions on this issue, I have circulated some charts which might be helpful for any discussion (see attached).

With those opening remarks, we would now be happy to answer the Committee’s questions.

RBA Aggregate Lending Data Tweaked To Make Investor Loans Lower

The RBA has published their credit aggregates for January today. Owner occupied lending rose 0.6%, or 8% over the past year to $1.14 trillion. Investment lending rose 0.2% of 3% over the past year to $587 billion. It comprises 34% of all housing lending.  They changed the way they report the data this month. It changes the trend reporting significantly .

Business investment fell 0.1% in the month, or 3.4% over the past year to $908 billion. Personal credit rose 0.1%, but fell 0.9% over the past year to $151.5 billion.

The monthly movements show the clear slowing of the mortgage sector, a slide in business lending and a small rise in personal credit (much of the slack here is being picked up in the Alternative Lending sector which will be subject to a separate post later).

The smoothed annual trends show the slide in investment lending in January.

Compare this with last month’s equivalent data when the RBA was running adjustments between the investor and owner occupied series. They have now stopped, as we discussed recently.  Investment lending therefor dropped from ~5% to ~3% in the past year as a result of their changes. Talk about fluff in the numbers!!

Instead they report on net switching. After a spike in 2015, when the differential pricing started to appear, its been running at around $1 billion each month.

The RBA says:

All growth rates for the financial aggregates are seasonally adjusted, and adjusted for the effects of breaks in the series as recorded in the notes to the tables listed below. Data for the levels of financial aggregates are not adjusted for series breaks. Historical levels and growth rates for the financial aggregates have been revised owing to the resubmission of data by some financial intermediaries, the re-estimation of seasonal factors and the incorporation of securitisation data. The RBA credit aggregates measure credit provided by financial institutions operating domestically. They do not capture cross-border or non-intermediated lending.

Following the introduction of an interest rate differential between housing loans to investors and owner-occupiers in mid-2015, a number of borrowers changed the purpose of their existing loan. Adjustments for these switching flows have been applied to the growth figures over the period from mid to late 2015 when this switching was unusually large, but not thereafter, as the amount of switching each month subsequently decreased and remained relatively stable (and thus appears to reflect regular behaviour that occurs from month to month). All switching flows are reflected in the level of owner-occupier and investor credit outstanding. For more information, including on past treatment of switching flows, please see February 2018 SMP – Box D: Measures of Investor and Owner-Occupier Housing Credit.

Comparing the APRA and RBA data, it appears the non-bank lending sector is still enjoying significant growth.

Lending Trends In December 2017 – Still About Home Loans!

The RBA released their credit aggregate data to end December 2017 today.  $1.1 billion of loans were reclassified in the month (we guess AMP).

They report that lending for housing grew 6.3% for the 12 months to December 2017, the same as the previous year, and the monthly growth was 0.4%.  Business lending was just 0.2% in December and 3.2% for the year, down on the 5.6% the previous year.  Personal credit was flat in December, but down 1.1% over the past year, compared with a fall of 0.9% last year. This is in stark contrast to the Pay Day Loan sector, which is growing fast, as we discussed yesterday (and not in the RBA data).

Total credit grew 0.3% in the month, and 4.8% for the year, so mortgage lending is still supporting overall growth, lifting the record household debt even higher. We need still tighter regulatory controls – especially as the costs of living continue to outstrip wage growth.

The annual trends show that investor lending is slowing a little, but still stands at 6.1% seasonally adjusted. Owner occupied lending is running at 6.4% over the last year.  34.1% of loans are for investment purposes.

The monthly data is very noisy as usual.

The value of owner occupied loans was $1.13 trillion, up $6.3 billion or 0.6%, seasonally adjusted; investment loans were $587 billion up $2 billion or 0.3%, seasonally adjusted; other personal credit $151 billion, down 0.2% or 0.3 billion and business lending was $908 billion, up $0.8 billion or 0.1%.

The data contains various health warnings:

All growth rates for the financial aggregates are seasonally adjusted, and adjusted for the effects of breaks in the series as recorded in the notes to the tables listed below. Data for the levels of financial aggregates are not adjusted for series breaks. Historical levels and growth rates for the financial aggregates have been revised owing to the resubmission of data by some financial intermediaries, the re-estimation of seasonal factors and the incorporation of securitisation data. The RBA credit aggregates measure credit provided by financial institutions operating domestically. They do not capture cross-border or non-intermediated lending.

Following the introduction of an interest rate differential between housing loans to investors and owner-occupiers in mid-2015, a number of borrowers have changed the purpose of their existing loan; the net value of switching of loan purpose from investor to owner-occupier is estimated to have been $62 billion over the period of July 2015 to December 2017, of which $1.1 billion occurred in December 2017. These changes are reflected in the level of owner-occupier and investor credit outstanding. However, growth rates for these series have been adjusted to remove the effect of loan purpose changes.

Home Lending Accelerates In December

The latest data from APRA, the monthly banking stats for ADI’s shows a growth in total home loan balances to $1.6 trillion, up 0.5%. Within that, lending for owner occupation rose 0.59% from last month to $1.047 trillion while investment loans rose 0.32% to $553 billion. 34.56% of the portfolio are for investment purposes.

The monthly ADI trends show this clearly (the blip in August was CBA adjustments). Growth accelerated across all loans, and within each type.

The portfolio movements within institutions show that Westpac is taking the lions share of investment loans (we suggest this involves significant refinancing of existing loans), CBA investment balances fell, while most other players were chasing owner occupied loans. Note the AMP Bank, which looks like a reclassification exercise.

Overall market shares remain stable, with CBA holding the largest share of owner occupied loans and Westpac leading on investment loans.

The 10% speed limit for investment loans is less interesting, given the 12 month average grow of 2.4%, but most of the majors are well below the 10%. Westpac is the major growing its investment book fastest, while CBA is in reverse. Clearly different strategies are in play.

Standing back, the momentum in lending is surprisingly strong, and reinforces the need to continue to tighten lending standards. This does not gel with recent home price falls, so something is going to give. Either we will see home prices start to lift, or mortgage momentum will sag. Either way, we are clearly in uncertain territory. Given the CoreLogic mortgage leading indicator stats were down, we suspect lending momentum will slide, following lower home prices. We publish our Household Finance Confidence Index shortly where we get an updated read on household intentions.

The RBA data comes out shortly, and we will see what adjustments they report, and momentum in the non-bank sector.

Mortgage Lending On The Slide, Perhaps

The RBA data for November 2017 was released today.  The financial aggregates shows that mortgage lending momentum is easing a little, but more slowly than bank lending, suggesting that the non-bank sector is taking up much of the slack. In addition, more loans were reclassified in the month, taking the total to an amazing $61 billion. Total mortgages are now at $1.71 trillion, another record. Overall growth is still much higher than wage growth, so household debt levels will continue to climb.

The monthly trends are pretty clear, if noisy.

The 12 month view irons out the noise and shows that investor lending has fallen to an annual rate of 6.5%, compared with owner occupied lending at 6.3%.   Total housing lending grew at 6.4%. Business lending is lower, at 4.7% and personal lending down 1.2%.

Looking at the values involved, total mortgage lending rose to $1.71 trillion, and investor loans fell to 34.1% of balances, still too high.

Two interesting points to make. First, it is clear mortgage momentum is being support by the non-bank sector, as the RBA aggregate data is significantly higher than the ADI growth from APRA. We have plotted the gap between the two on a 12 month rolling basis.

Second, there is still more “tweakage” in the numbers as loans are re-classified.  Total to date now $61 billion, a large proportion of investor loans!

Following the introduction of an interest rate differential between housing loans to investors and owner-occupiers in mid-2015, a number of borrowers have changed the purpose of their existing loan; the net value of switching of loan purpose from investor to owner-occupier is estimated to have been $61 billion over the period of July 2015 to November 2017, of which $1.2 billion occurred in November 2017. These changes are reflected in the level of owner-occupier and investor credit outstanding. However, growth rates for these series have been adjusted to remove the effect of loan purpose changes.



More Evidence of Slowing Mortgage Lending

The APRA ADI data for November 2017 was released today.  As normal we focus in on the mortgage datasets. Overall momentum in mortgage lending is slowing, with investment loans leading the way down.

Total Owner Occupied Balances are $1.041 trillion, up 0.56% in the month (so still well above income growth), while Investment Loans reach $551 billion, up 0.1%. So overall portfolio growth is now at 0.4%, and continues to slow (the dip in the chart below in August was an CBA one-off adjustment).  Total lending is $1.59 Trillion, another record.

Investment lending fell as a proportion of all loans to 36.6% (still too high, considering the Bank of England worries at 16% of loans for investment purposes!)

The portfolio movements of major lenders shows significant variation, with ANZ growing share the most, whilst CBA shrunk their portfolio a little.  Westpac and NAB grew their investment loans more than the others.

On a 12 month rolling basis, the market growth for investor loans was 2.8%, with a wide spread of banks across the field. Some small players remain above the 10% APRA speed limit.  This reflects a trend away from the majors.

Finally, here is the portfolio view, with CBA leading the OO portfolio, and WBC the INV portfolio.

We will look at the RBA data next.

First Time Buyers Keep The Property Market Afloat – The Property Imperative Weekly – 9th Dec 2017

First Time Buyers are keeping the property ship afloat for now, but what are the consequences?

Welcome to the Property Imperative weekly to 9th December 2017. Watch the video, or read the transcript.

In our weekly digest of property and finance news, we start this week with the latest housing lending finance from the ABS. The monthly flows show that owner occupied lending fell $23m compared with the previous month, down 0.15%, while investment lending flows fell 0.5%, down $60m in trend terms. Refinanced loans slipped 0.13% down $7.5 million. The proportion of loans excluding refinanced loans for investment purposes slipped from a recent high of 53.4% in January 2015, down to 44.6% (so investment property lending is far from dead!)

While overall lending was pretty flat, first time buyers lifted in response to the increased incentives in some states, by 4.5% in original terms to 10,061 new loans nationally. At a state level, FTB’s accounted for a 19% per cent share in Victoria and 13.7% in New South Wales, where in both states, a more favourable stamp duty regime and enhanced grants were introduced this year. But, other states showed a higher FTB share, with NT at 24.8%, WA at 24.6%, ACT at 20.1% and QLD 19.7%. SA stood at 13% and TAS at 13.3%. There was an upward shift in the relative numbers of first time buyers compared with other buyers (17.6% compared with 17.4% last month), still small beer compared with the record 31.4% in 2009. These are original numbers, so they move around each month. The number of first time buyer property investors slipped a little, using data from our household surveys, down 0.8% this past month. Together with the OO lift, total first time buyer participation has helped support the market.

The APRA Quarterly data to September 2017 shows that bank profitability rose 29.5% on 2016 and the return on equity was 12.3% compared with 9.9% last year. Loans grew 4.1%, thanks to mortgage growth, provisions were down although past due items were $14.3 billion as at 30 September 2017. This is an increase of $1.5 billion (11.8 per cent) on 30 September 2016. The major banks remain highly leveraged.

The property statistics showed that third party origination rose with origination to foreign banks sitting at 70% of new loans, mutuals around 20% and other banks around the 50% mark. Investment loan volumes have fallen, though major banks still have the largest relative share, above 30%.  Mutuals are sitting around 10%.  Interest only loans have fallen from around 40% in total value to 35%, but this represents a fall from around 30% of the loan count, to 27%. This reflects the higher average loan values for IO borrowers. The average loan balance for interest only loans currently stands at $347,000 against the average balance of $264,000.  No surprise of course, as these loans do not contain any capital repayments (hence the inherent risks involved, especially in a falling market).

But there has been a spike in loans being approved outside serviceability, with major banks reporting 5% or so in September. This may well reflect a tightening of standard serviceability criteria and the wish to continue to grow their loan books. We discussed this on Perth 6PR Radio.  So overall, we see the impact of regulatory intervention. The net impact is to slow lending momentum. As lenders tighten their lending standards, new borrowers will find their ability to access larger loans will diminish. But the loose standards we have had for several years will take up to a decade to work through, and with low income growth, high living costs and the risk of an interest rate rise, the risks in the system remain.

On the economic front, GDP from the ABS National Accounts was 0.6%. This was below the 0.7% expected. This gives an annual read of 2.3%, in trend terms, well short of the hoped for 3%+. Seasonally adjusted, growth was 2.8%. Business investment apart, this is a weak and concerning result.  The terms of trade fell. GDP per capita and net disposable income per capita both fell, which highlights the basic problem the economy faces.  The dollar fell on the news. Households savings also fell. No surprise then that according to the ABS, retail turnover remained stagnant in October. The trend estimate for Australian retail turnover fell 0.1 per cent in October 2017 following a relatively unchanged estimate (0.0 per cent) in September 2017. Compared to October 2016 the trend estimate rose 1.8 per cent. Trend estimates smooth the statistical noise.

So no surprise the RBA held the cash rate once again for the 16th month in a row.

The latest BIS data on Debt Servicing ratios shows Australia is second highest after the Netherlands. We are above Norway and Denmark, and the trajectory continues higher. Further evidence that current regulatory settings in Australia are not correct. As the BIS said, such high debt is a significant structural risk to future prosperity. They published a special feature on household debt, in the December 2017 Quarterly Review. They call out the risks from high mortgage lending, high debt servicing ratios, and the risks to financial stability and economic growth.  All themes we have already explored on the DFA Blog, but it is a well-argued summary. Also note Australia figures as a higher risk case study.  They say Central banks are increasingly concerned that high household debt may pose a threat to macroeconomic and financial stability and highlighted some of the mechanisms through which household debt may threaten both. Australia is put in the “high and rising” category.  The debt ratio now exceeds 120% in both Australia and Switzerland.  Mortgages make up the lion’s share of debt.  In Australia mortgage debt has risen from 86% of household debt in 2007 to 92% in 2017.

Basel III was finally agreed this week by the Central Bankers Banker – the Bank for International Settlements – many months later than expected and somewhat watered down. Banks will have to 2022 to adopt the new more complex framework, though APRA said that in Australia, they will be releasing a paper in the new year, and banks here should be planning to become “unquestionably strong” by 1 January 2020.  We note that banks using standard capital weights will need to add different risk weights for loans depending on their loan to value ratio, advanced banks will have some floors raised, and investor category mortgages (now redefined as loans secured again income generating property) will need higher weights. Net, net, there will be two effects. Overall capital will probably lift a little, and the gap between banks on the standard and internal methods narrowed. Those caught transitioning from standard to advanced will need to think carefully about the impact. This if anything will put some upwards pressure on mortgage rates.

The Treasury issues a report “Analysis of Wages Growth” which paints a gloomy story. Wage growth, they say, is low, across all regions and sectors of the economy, subdued wage growth has been experienced by the majority of employees, regardless of income or occupation, and this mirrors similar developments in other developed western economies. Whilst the underlying causes are far from clear, it looks like a set of structural issues are driving this outcome, which means we probably cannot expect a return to “more normal” conditions anytime some. This despite Treasury forecasts of higher wage growth later (in line with many other countries). We think this has profound implications for economic growth, tax take, household finances and even mortgage underwriting standards, which all need to be adjusted to this low income growth world.

Mortgage Underwriting standards are very much in focus, and rightly, given flat income growth.  There was a good piece on this from Sam Richardson at Mortgage Professional Australia which featured DFA. He said that over four days in late September two major banks added extra checks to an already-extensive application process. ANZ introduced a Customer Interview Guide requiring brokers to ask questions about everything from a customer’s Netflix subscription to whether they were planning to start a family. Three days later CBA introduced a simulator that would show interest-only borrowers how their repayments would change and affect their lifestyle. Customers would be required to fill in an ‘acknowledgement form’ to proceed with an interest-only application.

Getting good information from customers is hard work, not least because as we point out, only half of households have formal budgeting. So, when complete the mortgage application, households may be stating their financial position to the best of their ability, or they may be elaborating to help get the loan. It is hard to know. Certainly banks are looking for more evidence now, which is a good thing, but this may make the loan underwriting processes longer and harder. Improvements in technology could improve underwriting standards for banks while pre-populating interactive application forms for consumers and offering time-saving solutions to brokers and Open Banking may help, but while Applications can be made easier, this does not necessarily mean shorter.

More data this week on households, with a survey showing Australians have become more cautious of interest only loans with online panel research revealing that 46 per cent of Australians are Adamant Decliners of interest-only home loans according to research from the  Gateway Credit Union. In addition, a further quarter of respondents are Resistant Approvers, acknowledging the benefits of interest-only loans yet choosing not to utilise them. Of the generations, Baby Boomers are most likely to be Adamant Decliners and therefore, less likely to use interest-only products. While Gen Y are most likely to be Enthusiastic Users.

Banks continue to offer attractive rates for new home loans, seeking to pull borrows from competitors. Westpac for example, announced a series of mortgage rate cuts to attract new borrowers, as it seeks to continue to grow its portfolio, leveraging lower funding costs, and the war chest it accumulated earlier in the year from back book repricing, following APRA’s tightening of underwriting standards and restrictions on interest only loans. Rates for both new fixed rate loans and variable rate loans were reduced.  For example, the bank has also increased the two-year offer discount on its flexi first option home for principal and interest repayments from 0.84% p.a. to 1.00% p.a. putting the current two-year introductory rate at 3.59% p.a.

The RBA released their latest Bulletin  and it contained an interesting section on Housing Accessibility For First Time Buyers.  They suggest that in many centers, new buyers are able to access the market, thanks to the current low interest rates. But the barriers are significantly higher in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. They also highlight that FHBs (generally being the most financially constrained buyers) are not always able to increase their loan size in response to lower interest rates because of lenders’ policies. Indeed, the average FHB loan size has been little changed over recent years while the gap between repeat buyers and FHBs’ average loan sizes has widened. They also showed that in aggregate, rents have grown broadly in line with household incomes, although rent-to-income ratios suggest housing costs for lower-income households have increased over the past decade.

Housing affordability has improved somewhat  across all states and territories, allowing for a large increase in the number of loans to first-home buyers, according to the September quarter edition of the Adelaide Bank/REIA Housing Affordability Report. The report showed the proportion of median family income required to meet average loan repayments decreased by 1.2 percentage points over the quarter to 30.3 per cent. The result was decrease of 0.6 percentage points compared with the same quarter in 2016. However, Housing affordability is still a major issue in Sydney and Melbourne they said.  In addition, over the quarter, the proportion of median family income required to meet rent payments increased by 0.3 percentage points to 24.6 per cent.

Our own Financial Confidence Index for November fell to 96.1, which is below the 100 neutral metric, down from 96.9 in October 2017. This is the sixth month in succession the index has been below the neutral point. Owner Occupied households are the most positive, scoring 102, whilst those with investment property are at 94.3, as they react to higher mortgage repayments (rate rises and switching from interest only mortgages), while rental yields fall, and capital growth is stalling – especially in Sydney.  Households who are not holding property – our Property Inactive segment – will be renting or living with friends or family, and they scored 81.2. So those with property are still more positive overall. Looking at the FCI score card, job security is on the improve, reflecting rising employment participation, and the lower unemployment rate.  Around 20% of households feel less secure, especially those with multiple part time jobs. Savings are being depleted to fill the gap between income and expenditure – as we see in the falling savings ratio. As a result, nearly 40% of households are less comfortable with the amount they are saving. This is reinforced by the lower returns on deposit accounts as banks seek to protect margins. More households are uncomfortable with the amount of debt they hold with 40% of households concerned. The pressure of higher interest rates on loans, tighter lending conditions, and low income growth all adds to the discomfort. More households reported their real incomes had fallen in the past year, with 50% seeing a fall, while 40% see no change.  Only those on very high incomes reported real income growth.

Finally, we also released the November mortgage stress and default analysis update. You can watch our video counting down the most stressed postcodes in the country. But in summary, across Australia, more than 913,000 households are estimated to be now in mortgage stress (last month 910,000) and more than 21,000 of these in severe stress, the same as last month. Stress is sitting on a high plateau. This equates to 29.4% of households. We see continued default pressure building in Western Australia, as well as among more affluent household, beyond the traditional mortgage belts across the country. Stress eased a little in Queensland, thanks to better employment prospects. We estimate that more than 52,000 households risk 30-day default in the next 12 months, similar to last month. We expect bank portfolio losses to be around 2.8 basis points, though with losses in WA rising to 4.9 basis points.

So, the housing market is being supported by first time buyers seeking to gain a foothold in the market, but despite record low interest rates, and special offer attractor rates, many will be committing a large share of their income to repay the mortgage, at a time when income growth looks like it will remain static, costs of living are rising, and mortgage rates will rise at some point. All the recent data suggests that underwriting standards are still pretty loose, and household debt overall is still climbing. This still looks like a high risk recipe, and we think households should do their own financial assessments if they are considering buying at the moment – for home prices are likely to slide, and the affordability equation may well be worse than expected. Just because a lender is willing to offer a large mortgage, do not take this a confirmation of your ability to repay. The reality is much more complex than that. Getting mortgage underwriting standards calibrated right has perhaps never been more important than in the current environment!

And that’s the Property Imperative to 9th December 2017. If you found this useful, do leave a comment, sign up to receive future research and check back next week for the latest update. Many thanks for taking the time to watch.

Mortgage Growth Only Easing A Bit: A Policy Vacuum

The latest data from the RBA, to end October 2017 ,  shows that lending for housing rose 0.5% in the month, and 6.5% for the past year (three times inflation!).  Lending to business rose 0.3% to 4% over the past year and personal credit was flat, and fell 0.9% over the past year. Another $1.2 billion of housing loans were reclassified in the month, making $60 billion in total, this is more than 10% of the total investment loan book! The proportion of investor loans fell slightly again, down to 34.2% of portfolio

Total mortgage lending is now above $1,7 trillion, with owner occupied loans up 0.6% or $6.6 billion to $1.12 trillion, and investor loans up 0.2% or $1.2 billion to $584 billion. Comparing this with the APRA data, out today, we see continued relative growth in the non-bank sector.

Here is the monthly growth plots, which even seasonally adjusted are noisy.   The smoother annual plots shows a slowing trend across the mortgage sector, but with investor sector still growth at 6.9%, ahead of the owner occupied sector at 6.5%, or business at 4%.  Further evidence the settings are wrong.

There is simply no excuse to allow home lending to be running at more than three times inflation or wage growth at the current dizzy price and leverage levels.  Still too much focus on home lending and not enough on productive growth enabling business lending. This is something which the Royal Commission is unlikely to touch, as it is a policy, not a behaviourial issue.

The RBA says:

Following the introduction of an interest rate differential between housing loans to investors and owner-occupiers in mid-2015, a number of borrowers have changed the purpose of their existing loan; the net value of switching of loan purpose from investor to owner-occupier is estimated to have been $60 billion over the period of July 2015 to October 2017, of which $1.2 billion occurred in October 2017. These changes are reflected in the level of owner-occupier and investor credit outstanding. However, growth rates for these series have been adjusted to remove the effect of loan purpose changes.

Mortgage Lending Still On The Up

The latest banking statistics from APRA, to end October 2017 shows that banks continue to lend strongly to households. The overall value of their portfolios grew 0.5% in the month to $1.57 trillion, up $7.3 billion.

Owner occupied loans grew 0.6% to $1.03 trillion, up $6.4 billion and investment loans rose 0.15% of $816 million. The proportion of investment loans continues to drift lower, but is still at 34.8% of all lending (too high!!).

Looking at the monthly movement trends in more detail, we see the “dent” in the trends a couple of months back thanks to CBA’s reclassification of loans from their portfolio. Ignoring that blip, the current policy settings are still too generous. Household debt will continue to rise, despite low wage growth and the prospect of higher interest rates. Risks in the system are still rising.

Looking at the individual lenders, the portfolio movements are small, but Westpac has extended its lead over CBA on investor loans. There is clearly a difference in strategy here between the two.

That is even more obvious where we see the monthly portfolio movements by lender.  CBA reduced their investment portfolio this month, whilst Westpac grew theirs.

Finally, here is the investment portfolio growth by lenders, using the sum of the monthly movements. Market growth is sitting at around 3%. Some smaller lenders are well above the speed limit.

The RBA data out now will give us the read on market growth, and the amount of reclassification in play.

Who Would Be Affected by More Banking Deserts?

From The St. Louis Fed On The Economy Blog.

Although technology has made it easy to bank from almost anywhere, personal and public benefits are still derived from bank branches. In areas without branches—commonly referred to as “banking deserts”—the costs and inconveniences of cashing checks, establishing deposit accounts, obtaining loans and maintaining banking relationships are exacerbated.

Banking Deserts a Growing Concern?

The closing of thousands of bank branches in the aftermath of the last recession has intensified societal concerns about access to financial services among low-income and minority populations, groups that are often affected disproportionately in such situations. The number of people stranded in areas devoid of bank services would probably expand in the future if branches continue to close.

From this perspective, available resources may be better spent trying to prevent more deserts than trying to repopulate existing deserts with new branches.

What Areas Are at Risk?

In the figure below, we isolated branches that were outside the 10-mile range of any others. That is, we found branches that would create new banking deserts if closed. Our analysis is based on demographic and economic data collected for the county subdivision in which each branch is located.

Banking Deserts

We identified 1,055 potential deserts in 2014, of which 204 were in urban areas and 851 in rural areas. The urban areas had a combined population of 2 million, while the rural areas had a combined population of 1.9 million.

These potential deserts have relatively low population densities of 26 people per square mile in urban areas and 12 people per square mile in rural areas. Comparative densities outside potential deserts are, respectively, 176 and 26 people per square mile. In other words, areas with dispersed populations are more at risk of becoming a banking desert.

Potential Effects of New Banking Deserts

Median incomes are $46,717 in potential urban deserts and $41,259 in potential rural deserts. This suggests that any desert expansion would affect lower-income people more than higher-income people.

Minorities constitute 9.8 percent of the population in potential urban deserts and 4.0 percent of the population in potential rural deserts. Both percentages are lower than those for existing deserts and nondeserts. This suggests that newly created deserts may not disadvantage minorities to a greater extent than existing deserts do.

Branches in potential deserts are small, with median deposits of $23 million in urban areas and $20 million in rural areas. They tend to be operated by small banks, with median total assets of $776 million in urban areas and $317 million in rural areas.

The small size of these branches and the banks that own them suggest that what stands between a community and its isolation within a new banking desert are not the decisions made by big banks with a national footprint but, rather, the decisions made by locally oriented community banks. Additionally, potential deserts are more likely to be located in Midwestern states.