More On The RBA Tweaks – Messy Or What!

I did a mapping between the old and new basis for investor and interest only loans in the RBA credit aggregates. I posted the data earlier.

Since mid-2015 the bank has been writing back perceived loan reclassifications which pushed the investor loans higher and the owner occupied loans lower.

They have now reversed this policy, so the flow of investment loans is lower (and more in line with the data from APRA on bank portfolios). Investor loans are suddenly 2% lower. Magically!

This is the monthly switching:

But two points.

First I am amazed the  banks feels its OK to suddenly change the basis of their calculations, when its such a critical issue. The provided reasoning is perverse – loan switching is “normal”. Suddenly back tracking over the past two years is plain weird.  The section in the Stability Report said it was going to happen. That is all.

Second, it once again highlights the rubbery nature of the data on lending in Australia. What with data problems in the banks, and at the RBA, we really do not have a good chart and compass.  It just happens to be the biggest threat to financial stability but never mind.

Standing back though, despite the static growth in investment lending, do not forget that overall debt is still rising faster than incomes, by a factor of two to three times.

Owner occupied lending must be tamed too if we are to ever get back to a more even keel – the case for more macro-prudential intervention just got stronger!

Business Finance Still Skewed Towards Property

The final piece of the October 2017 lending finance data came from the ABS today. It is not pretty.  As usual we will focus on the trend series which irons out some of the statistical bumps.

Owner occupied housing lending excluding alterations and additions fell 0.1% in trend terms. Personal finance commitments rose 1.3%. Fixed lending commitments rose 2.2%, while revolving credit commitments fell 0.1%.

Total commercial finance commitments fell 1.1%. Fixed lending commitments fell 2.5% (which includes mortgage lending for investment purposes), while revolving credit commitments rose 3.7%.

The trend series for the value of total lease finance commitments fell 0.7%.

Here is the summary with the relative percentage for owner occupied housing and personal finance rising (so putting more pressure on household debt ratios in a flat income, rising cost market). Overall lending to business, relative to all lending fell again.

Personal credit is rising, now, as households find their cash flow is under pressure, many are now seeking fixed loans to help bridge the gap left by falling savings.  In prior years there was a fall at this time of year, before the Christmas binge, but that is different this year. This does not bode well for Christmas spending, and we see signs of the New Year sales already underway!

Then finally, if we look at the fixed business lending, and split it into lending for property investment and other business lending, the horrible truth is that even with all the investment lending tightening, relatively the proportion for this purpose grew, while fixed business lending as a proportion of all lending fell.

These a clear signs of a sick economy (in the sense of unwell!), with business investment still sluggish, still too much lending on property investment, and as we showed above, too much additional debt pressure on households.

I will repeat. Lending growth for housing which is running at three times income and cpi is simply not sustainable. Households will continue to drift deeper into debt, at these ultra low interest rates. This makes the RBA’s job of normalising rates even harder.

The mid-year economic forecast, later in the week will likely simply underscore the fact the economic settings are not appropriate. And, by the way, tax cuts, even if they could be paid for, will not help.

Mortgage Reclassification Still An Issue

The RBA said recently, when they released their credit aggregates to end March, that $51 billion of loans have been switched from investor to owner-occupier, with $1.2bn in March.

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 $51 billion over the period of July 2015 to March 2017, of which $1.2 billion occurred in March 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.

With the current balance of investor loans sitting at a record $577 billion, nearly 10% of the book has been switched to lower owner occupied rates. We of course cannot tell if this switching is legitimate, or opportunistic to get a lower interest rate and helpfully reduce the bank exposure to investor loans. The RBA data shows strong “corrected” investor growth of 7.1%, higher than owner occupied loans.

According to a report in the Australian today:

Responding to questions on notice from a Senate economic committee hearing, APRA said the switching “highlighted that some (lenders) have not had ­sufficiently robust practices” for monitoring the status of their borrowers and the data previously submitted to the regulator was “incorrect”.

APRA forced several banks to upgrade their reporting capabilities and, as a result, “some have strengthened their procedures”.

Tasmanian senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who asked APRA if its data was accurate, said the ­reclassification of loans was “concerning, whether it’s deliberate or not”.

He said: “I’d be loathe to see if any sort of systemic changes by the banks to loan classification were made to continue to grow loans to investors when it’s clear APRA is trying to crack down on what is potentially a very serious issue.”

ANZ Hikes Investor Loans (Again)


ONE of the nation’s largest banks ANZ has lifted interest rates on home loan deals.

The bank has followed in the footsteps of rivals the Commonwealth Bank and Westpac, moving interest rates on both owner occupier and investor loans.

Some of the moves also include decreases and are effective immediately.

The moves come ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia board meeting on Tuesday where it’s expected they will keep the cash rate on hold at 1.5 per cent.

Owner occupiers and investors signing up to interest-only fixed rate deals will be the worst hit with some hikes as high as 0.4 per cent.

On 2, 4, and 5 year fixed owner occupier interest-only loans the rates will rise by 0.4 per cent on the bank’s Breakfree products (this is one of the bank’s most popular products).

On one of the most popular fixed loans terms, three-year owner occupier interest-only loans will rise by 0.3 per cent to 4.49 per cent increasing repayments on a $300,000 30-year loan by $75 per month to $1123.

For investors on a three-year fixed-rate interest-only Breakfree deal the rate will rise 0.3 per cent 4.69 per cent, pushing up repayments by $75 per month to $1173.

For both owner occupiers and investors on principal and interest fixed rate deals rates on nearly all these products will fall.
Borrowers have been hit by fixed rates increases in recent weeks.

Borrowers have been hit by fixed rates increases in recent weeks.Source:Supplied

The three-year fixed rate owner occupier principal and interest deal will fall by 0.2 per cent to 3.99 per cent saving customers $34 per month and making repayments $1431.

On a three-year fixed rate investor principal and interest deal the rate will fall by 0.1 per cent to 4.44 per cent.

An ANZ spokesman said the “reflect our need to closely manage our regulatory obligations, portfolio risk and the competitive environment.”

Mozo spokeswoman Kirsty Lamont said the increases by ANZ are a result of the financial regulator, the Australian Prudential and Regulation Authority limiting their interest-only lending.

Mozo spokeswoman Kirsty Lamont said there’s increasing pressure on financial institutions to limit interest-only lending.Source:News Corp Australia

“It’s now more important than ever for interest only borrowers to do their homework on where to find the best rates in this current climate of tighter regulation,’’ she said.

“With the Federal Reserve jacking up rates in the US and inflation just scraping within the Reserve Bank target, we expect a cash rate increase in the next 12 months which means these fixed rates are unlikely to be around for a long time.”

CUA will temporarily pause accepting investor lending applications

Credit Union Australia (CUA) has said it will temporarily pause accepting investor lending applications until further notice, including applicants refinancing from other financial institutions.

The changes will temporarily apply to all applications for new investor loans, and will impact applicants who have lodged investor applications that do not yet have pre-approval, conditional approval or full approval.

Chief Operating Officer, Member Services, Andy Rigg said that CUA had seen a sharp increase in investor lending volumes in recent weeks, driven by CUA’s competitive loan offers and market conditions.

“We have been closely monitoring our year-on-year investor lending balance growth to ensure that we continue to lend prudently while remaining within the 10% regulatory growth benchmark,” he said.

“We have observed an increase in new investor applications, particularly in response to some of the actions taken by other lenders to slow their investor growth.

“In response to the continued growth in our investor lending and forward projections of this growth, we’ve taken the decision that we need to temporarily pause new investor lending.”

Those applicants impacted by the change are being contacted directly by CUA.

The decision is part of a coordinated strategy by CUA to manage investor lending growth and follows other recent changes that CUA has made to interest rates and loan-to-valuation ratios. CUA is one of a number of lenders that have recently taken similar steps to restrict new lending to investors.

Risks In The Banks’ Property Investor Portfolio

In the world of microprudential, the status of individual households and their finances becomes ever more important from a risk perspective. We have already shown that some investment property holders are near to the edge, financially speaking, and would be troubled by rising interest rates or a forced conversion from interest only to interest and principle repayments.

The Basel Committee is pushing towards a requirement for banks’ to hold higher capital where the servicing of the loan is “materially dependent” on regular rental streams. Whilst this might seem arcane when the average vacancy rates are quite low, even now there are significant state variations.  Vacancy rates in WA in particular are high.

So using data from our extensive household surveys, we have been looking at the finances of property investors, with the question of servicing the loan in mind should rental streams dry up.

To do this we created a custom data series using the following logic.

We are looking at the available funds, on a cash flow basis after living costs, servicing the OO mortgage (if held) and tax.  Next we compared this to the costs of the investment property, again on a cash flow basis.

Looking across our household segments, the more affluent households are more likely to find their available funds would not cover the costs of the investment property (all done on an annual basis), whilst those with lower incomes, and who are less affluent are actually better positioned.

If we cut the data by our property segments, portfolio property investors have the highest exposure, followed by first time buyers.

Finally, we can look across the regions, and we find that property investors in Hobart are more exposed (though rental vacancies are lower there) but property investors in NSW also more highly exposed (thanks to larger mortgages compared to income).

This alternative way to view the market could become important if differential capital weightings were to be applied.  This could move from a theoretical discussion, to one of relative risk-based pricing down the track. Most lenders would not currently differentiate on this basis.  Granular data is required to look through this lens.

CBA targets third party origination in investment lending crackdown

From Australian Broker.

The recent tightening of investment lending practices by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia only apply to those loans coming through the third party channel, it has been revealed.

Last week, it was reported that the CBA had halted any new refinance applications for standalone mortgages.

A notice sent to the bank’s broker network stated: “To ensure we continue to meet our commitments, from Monday 13th February we will be suspending the acceptance of new refinance applications for Investment Home Loans, until further notice.

“Applications which include both Investor and Owner Occupier loans are not impacted.”

While the notice appeared to apply to all refinance investor loans, the major bank has now told Australian Broker that these changes apply solely to intermediary-sourced loans. Borrowers will still be able to access refinance investor loans via CBA’s retail branches.

“We’re committed to meeting our responsible lending and regulatory obligations and to ensure we continue to meet this commitment, we are unable to accept new refinance applications for Investment Home Loans from our broker partners,” a CBA spokesperson told Australian Broker on Wednesday.

“The vast majority of our single property investment home loan refinances come to us through our broker partners so the decision was made to address this in the first instance to ensure we continue to meet our regulatory requirements.”

“We constantly review our products, policies and processes to ensure we’re meeting our customers’ financial needs,” the spokesperson said.

This decision comes soon after CBA subsidiary Bankwest announced it too would halt all new applications from customers looking to refinance their standalone investment lending.

ANZ, Westpac and NAB have thus far made no changes to their investment lending policies in either the third party or retail channels

Another Nail In The Investment Lending Coffin

AMP has announced it will no longer accept loan applications to refinance stand-alone investment property loans with investment property security as reported by Australian Broker.

Effective tomorrow, 16 February, the bank will also be increasing Investment Interest Only rates by 0.30%, and Owner Occupied Interest Only products by 0.30% per annum.

“We will no longer accept loan applications to refinance stand- alone investment property loans with investment property security. Refinances that include owner- occupied and investment properties remain acceptable, subject to security property values,” the bank said in the announcement.

Investment Principle & Interest products are also increasing by 0.25% pa, effective tomorrow (16 February).

Along with these changes the non-major has also announced notable credit policy changes. The maximum LVR for purchases of investment property loans is reducing to 70% (including LMI), while the credit card servicing rate for calculating loan serviceability will increase from 2.5% to 3% of the credit limit. This change impacts all new loans (owner occupied and investment).

“The changes announced today do not impact pipeline deals or our existing customers and there is no change for new owner-occupied principle and interest loans,” the statement said.

“These changes are being made after recent shifts in consumer behaviour and competitor activity in the property market.”

Sally Bruce, Group Executive AMP Bank commented: “We actively manage our credit policies to ensure we prudently manage risk and align with regulatory requirements.

“With sustained high levels of activity in the property market in 2017, we will continue to closely monitor developments and put measures in place to control and manage the future growth of our investment property portfolio,” she said.

AMP’s changes come following a similar crackdown on investment lending by CBA, last week.

So Just How Sensitive Are Property Investors To Rising Interest Rates Now?

Having looked at changes in investment loan supply, and the motivations of the rising number portfolio property investors, today we use updated data from our rolling household surveys to look at how property investors are positioned should mortgage rates rise. In fact, for many, rates have already been raised, thanks to lender repricing independent of any RBA cash rate move, some as much as 65 basis points. We think there is more to come, as loan supply gets tighter, international financial markets tighten and competitive dynamics allows for hikes to cover capital costs and to bolster margins.

To assess the sensitivity we model households ability to service mortgage debt, taking into account their other outgoings, and rental income.  We are not here looking at default risk, but net cash flow. How high would rates rise before they were under pressure? Where they also have owner occupied loans, or other debts, we take this into account in our assessment.

The first chart is a summary of all borrowing investor households. The horizontal scale is the amount by rates may rise, and for each scenario we make an assessment of the proportion of households impacted, on a cumulative basis. So as rates rise, more households would feel pain.

The summary shows that nationally around a quarter of households would struggle with a rate hike of up to 0.5%, and as rate rose higher, this rises to 50% with a 3% rate rise, though 40% could cope with even a rise of 7%.

So a varied picture. But it gets really interesting if you segment the analysis. Those who follow DFA will know we are a great believer in segmentation to gain insight!

A state by state analysis shows that households in NSW are most exposed to a small rate rise, with 36% estimated to be under pressure from a 0.5% rise (explained by large mortgages and static rental yields), compared with 2% in TAS.

Origination channel makes a difference, with those who used a mortgage broker or advisor (third party) more exposed compared with those who when direct to a lender. The pattern is consistent across the rate rise bands.  This could be explained by brokers knowing where to go to get the bigger loans, or the type of households going to brokers.

Households with interest only loans are 6% more exposed to a small rise, and this gap remains across our scenarios. No surprise, as interest only loans are more sensitive to rate movements. We have not here considered the tighter lending criteria now in play for interest only lending.

Our master segmentation reveals that it is Young Affluent and Young Growing Families who are most exposed, followed by Exclusive Professionals. Some of the more affluent are portfolio investors, so are more leveraged, despite larger incomes.

Finally, we can present the age band data, which shows that those aged 40-49 have the greatest exposure as rates rise, though young households are most sensitive to a small rise.  Note this does not reveal the relative number of investor across the age groups, just their relative sensitivity.

This all suggests that lenders need to get granular to understand the risks in the portfolio. Households need to have a strategy to prepare for rate rises and should not be fixated on the capital appreciation, at the expense of cash flow management, especially in a rising rate environment.

Is This Why CBA Has Cut Back Its Investment Lending?

As a follow-up from our recent post, this chart may explain why CBA has been forced to trim its investment housing lending sails.

If you annualise the monthly net movements in investment loan stock, in December CBA came out at 10.3%, above the 10% APRA imposed speed limit. Also, clearly the growth trend was upwards.

Further evidence to our hypothesis that the regulator picked up the phone, and suggested they should trim their growth. It also shows that the remaining majors need to be a little careful, but there is headroom in the system to take up some of the slack. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Of course the APRA data is full of noise thanks to ongoing loan reclassification, but the trend is pretty clear.