Low rates drive private credit growth

Credit to the private sector has gained momentum as households and businesses respond to lower interest rates, according to a report by Westpac.

The results of the report showed annual credit growth at 6.2 per cent in March, increasing from 4.4 per cent a year ago.

Housing saw growth of 7.3 per cent over the past year, up from 5.9 per cent, while for business annual growth rose to 5.3 per cent, up from 2.7 per cent a year earlier.

In March alone, total credit expanded by 0.5 per cent – matching the February outcome and in line with the average of the previous six months.

“While the headline held at [a] 0.5 per cent gain in the month, the detail reveals a softer tone for business, with a rise of only 0.2 per cent,” the report said.

“That is a material down-step from 0.5 per cent per month on average over the previous half year.

“The softer business result was offset by a rounding up of housing, from 0.55 per cent to 0.62 per cent, and the first positive read on personal since October (+0.2 per cent after a -0.3 per cent).”

Looking at the housing market, credit increased by 10.4 per cent over the year, up from 7.7 per cent in March 2014, according to the report.

The March figure was 0.9 per cent, up from 0.8 per cent average over the past half year.

“Despite this, three-month annualised growth in investor credit has slowed a little to 10 per cent from a November peak of 10.8 per cent,” the report noted.

“This is consistent with housing finance, which lost momentum at the turn of the year.

“For owner-occupiers, the improvement in annual credit growth has been relatively modest, strengthening to 5.8 per cent currently, up from 5.0 per cent a year ago.”

The report also noted that the developments over the past year and a half, including the RBA’s decision to lower the cash rate in February, provides evidence that monetary policy continues to be effective in Australia, especially in terms of the housing market.

“We expect housing finance and housing credit growth to improve modestly in response to lower rates,” the report concluded.

 

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