Usage of credit card limits at 14-year low: Savanth Sebastian

Usage of credit card limits at 14-year low: Savanth Sebastian
Usage of credit card limits at 14-year low: Savanth Sebastian

GUEST OBSERVER

Petrol: Last week the key Singapore gasoline price recorded the biggest percentage increase in a year, up by US$6.60 or 13.6 percent to US$55.20 a barrel. In Australian dollar terms the Singapore gasoline price rose by $7.73 a barrel or 11.7 percent to $73.72 a barrel.

MotorMouth records the following retail prices for capital cities today: Sydney 94.9c; Melbourne 114.40c; Brisbane 120.6c; Adelaide 97.7c; Perth 103.7c; Canberra 112.7c; Darwin 116.2c; Hobart 118.0c.

Credit cards: The average credit card balance fell by $77.10 (2.4 percent) to $3,114.30 in January. In smoothed terms (12 month average) the average balance was down by 1.5 percent – the biggest fall in 21 months.

Credit limits: Usage of credit card limits eased from 35.2 percent to 34.3 percent in January - a 14-year low.

ATM use: Withdrawals at automated teller machines in January were down by 7.2 percent on a year ago in smoothed terms, the biggest decline on record.

The petrol figures have implications for retailers, especially petrol marketing groups. The credit card figures have implications for finance providers, retailers, and companies dependent on consumer and business spending.

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Usage of credit card limits at 14-year low: Savanth Sebastian

What does it all mean?

Global oil prices have surged in the past week. In fact the almost 14 percent lift in the Singapore unleaded price was the strongest gain in over a year. Even the heavy lifting Australian dollar has not managed to buffer the price gains. In Australian dollar terms prices the Singapore unleaded price lifted by almost 12 percent. Importantly while petrol prices will lift from recent seven year lows they remains relatively depressed, providing households and businesses with additional spending power.

In addition the discounting cycle continues to pay dividends for motorists – provided you are filling up at the cheap end of the cycle. More capital cities are experiencing petrol below $1 a litre. But the key is to keep an eye on the discounting cycle. In Sydney and Adelaide, prices are holding between 94-98c; Perth 104c; while in Melbourne and Brisbane prices are around $1.15-$1.20 a litre. Clearly filling up at the cheaper days of the cycle can yield motorists substantial savings.

Consumers continue to be savvy about plastic card use. The average credit balance has gone backwards over the past year with the smoothed measure at a near two-year low. And given that the inflation rate is above 2 per cent, it would suggest that credit card debt is falling even further in real terms. Cardholders are frequently paying off credit card debt by the due date and using cards to maximise loyalty points. In addition usage of credit card limits is holding at a 14-year low.

Interestingly, average ATM withdrawals fell by 7.2 percent in the year to January – the biggest fall on record. And the average value of a debit card transaction was just $53.40 in smoothed terms – a record 12-year low. No doubt the changes technology with PayPass and Paywave are resulting in fewer Aussies carrying physical cash and also using their cards for smaller purchases.

The Reserve Bank will continue to remain on the interest rate sidelines – comfortable about the way the Australian economy is evolving. Importantly, activity levels are lifting, driven by stronger home construction. Policymakers are likely to focus on the labour market and Australian dollar in coming months.

What do the figures show?

Petrol prices

Today the national average wholesale (terminal gate) unleaded petrol price  stands at 101.9 cents per litre, up 3.1 cents per litre on a week ago. The terminal gate diesel price  stands at 96.5 cents a litre, up 2.2 cents over the week. (Data on pump or retail prices is released on Tuesday).

Last week the key Singapore gasoline price  rose by US$6.60 or 13.6 per cent to US$55.20 a barrel. In Australian dollar terms the Singapore gasoline price rose by $7.73 a barrel or 11.7 per cent to $73.72 a barrel or 46.36 cents a litre.

MotorMouth records the following retail prices for capital cities today: Sydney 94.9c; Melbourne 114.40c; Brisbane 120.6c; Adelaide 97.7c; Perth 103.7c; Canberra 112.7c; Darwin 116.2c; Hobart 118.0c.

Credit card lending:

The average credit card balance  fell by $77.10 (2.4 percent) to $3,114.30 in January. Compared with a year ago, the average credit card balance was down 1.7 percent. In smoothed terms (12 month average) the average balance was down by 1.5 percent – the biggest fall in 21 months.

Of credit cards attracting interest charges , the average outstanding balance rose by $11.10 in January to $1,981.50. The average balance accruing interest is down by 4.6 per cent on a year ago. In smoothed terms (12 month average) the average balance was down by 5.7 percent on a year ago – the biggest decline in 16 months.

The average credit card limit  rose by $11.80 to $9,075.90 in January. The average credit card limit in January was down 0.1 percent on a year ago. Usage of credit card limits eased from 35.2 percent to 34.3 percent in

January - a 14-year low.

On average, there were 11.3 transactions made per each credit card account  in January, up from 11.1 a year ago. The average value of purchases was $119.4 in January. The rolling annual average of purchases eased from $129.4 to $128.9 in January - an 11-year low.

The number of cash advances  recorded a 2.4 per cent annual fall in smoothed (12-month average) terms in December.

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Usage of credit card limits at 14-year low: Savanth Sebastian

Debit card lending & ATMs

The number of debit card accounts rose by 3.2 percent in the year to January to 41.66 million.

The number of purchases and cash-out transactions  made with debit cards in January was up by 13.7 percent on a year ago. The annual growth rate has averaged 12.1 per cent over the past two years.

On average there were 8.8 transactions made per debit card  in January, up from 8.1 a year ago. The average value of a transaction was $52.02 with the rolling annual average at $53.40 – a record (12-year) low.

Transactions at automated teller machines  in January were down by 8.4 percent on a year ago. In smoothed terms, ATM transactions were 7.2 percent down on a year ago, the biggest decline on record.

What is the importance of the economic data?

The Reserve Bank releases data on credit and debit card  transactions each month. The credit card figures are useful in highlighting consumer borrowing and spending trends.

Weekly figures on petrol prices  are compiled by ORIMA Research on behalf of the Australian Institute of Petroleum (AIP). National average retail prices are calculated as the weighted average of each State/Territory's metropolitan and non-metropolitan retail petrol prices, with the weights based on the number of registered petrol vehicles in each of these regions. AIP data for retail petrol prices is based on available market data supplied by MotorMouth.

What are the implications for interest rates and investors?

The Reserve Bank will be comforted by the more stable conditions in financial markets and the broader economy. The Federal Reserve meeting will garner the most interest this week, particularly in terms of the impact on the Australian dollar. CommSec expects no change to interest rate settings for the foreseeable future.

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Usage of credit card limits at 14-year low: Savanth Sebastian

 Savanth Sebastian is an economist for CommSec

Tags: 
Interest Rates Petrol Prices

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