Credit growth anemic in mid 2019: Andrew Hanlan

Credit growth anemic in mid 2019: Andrew Hanlan
Credit growth anemic in mid 2019: Andrew Hanlan

Credit growth was anaemic in mid-2019, with housing weak in the wake of the sharp downturn and with business hitting a soft spot around the time of the Federal election.

More forward to August and credit growth remains weak despite the lift in new lending for housing in response to interest rate cuts. The reason for this apparent puzzle is that mortgagors repayments take a little time to adjust to the lower rates - as discussed below.

Total credit grew by 0.2% in the month of August, matching the average monthly outcome for the year to date. The mix was: housing +0.17%; business 0.2%; and personal -0.2%.

Annual credit growth has slipped below 3.0%, to 2.9% in August - the softest outcome since mid-2011.

Credit growth has progressively eased since expanding by 6.6% in 2015, with growth moderating to 5.6% in 2016, +4.8% in 2017 and +4.3% in 2018.

Key to this trend has been the housing sector. Housing credit growth has moved lower over recent years: from 7.4% in 2015; 6.3% in both 2016 and 2017; to 4.7% in 2018. The latest annual reading is 3.1%, the weakest in the history of the series (dating from the late 1970s) - the previous low was 4.4% in 2013.

In 2018, the housing sector downturn accelerated as lending conditions tightened further and as investors pulled-back. New lending contracted by 5.8% in the six months to June and then fell by a sharp 15% in the six months to December. The downturn broadened to owner-occupiers, with finance to this segment 2% lower in 2018H1 then down 14.3% over 2018H2.

More recently, new lending for housing has turned the corner - with a rebound in June and a jump in July. Sentiment has bounced following the May 18 Federal election, with the return of the Coalition government. The RBA lowered rates in June and again in July, with additional cuts likely, and APRA has eased mortgage serviceability assessments.

A lift in new lending will see housing credit growth strength over the coming months. However, over the past three months, housing credit has been choppy with repayments yet to be adjusted in recognition of the lower interest rates. That means that principal is being repaid more quickly - which acts to slow credit growth.

Momentum in housing credit, the 3 month annualised growth pace, is 2.5% currently, moderating from 6.7% in mid-2017. By segment, 3 month growth is 4.4% annualised for owner-occupiers and -0.9% for investors.

Turning to business credit, this grew by 3.4% over the past year, up from 3.0% for 2017 but still representing a moderation from gains of 6.4% in 2015 and 5.4% in 2016.

In 2019, business credit has hit a soft spot, with growth slowing to 2.1% annualised over the past 6 months. A key was the temporary impact of additional uncertainty around the time of the May Federal election. This mirrors the experience of the July 2016 Federal election.

At the same time, the economic backdrop has become more challenging, the global economy is slowing and domestically household spending is soft. In this environment business investment in the real economy has lost momentum across the non-mining sectors - which will tend to weigh on credit growth.

ANDREW HANLAN is a senior economist for Westpac

Andrew Hanlan

Andrew Hanlan

Andrew has been with Westpac since 2002. After starting his career in the public sector, Andrew worked at the Commonwealth Treasury in Canberra, before enjoying a stint at Parliament House, where he worked as an adviser to the Finance Minister. His main focus is analysing the Australian macro economy.

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