Record drop in average home loan: CommSec's Savanth Sebastian

Record drop in average home loan: CommSec's Savanth Sebastian
Record drop in average home loan: CommSec's Savanth Sebastian


The number of loans (commitments) for people who are buying or building homes to live in (owner-occupiers) rose by 1.4 percent in February after sliding by 4.4 percent in January.

The average home loan across Australia fell for the third consecutive month down by $15,200 to $357,200 in February – the biggest monthly decline on record. And it was the biggest percentage decline for a February month.

Retail petrol: According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the national average Australian price of unleaded petrol rose 4.1 cents per litre, to 114.4 cents per litre in the week to April 10.

Capital cities: In Adelaide, the average petrol price is currently below $1 a litre. In Sydney and Brisbane, prices are near $1.25 - $1.29 a litre after lifting a much as 20 cents a litre in the past week.

Chinese inflation: Chinese consumer prices fell by 0.4 percent in March to be up 2.3 percent on the year (forecast 2.5 percent). Producer prices fell by 4.3 percent over the year (forecast -4.6 percent).

Food inflation: Over the year food prices are up 7.6 percent with non-food prices up just 1.0 percent.

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Record drop in average home loan: CommSec's Savanth Sebastian

The housing finance data has implications for banks, building material suppliers and retailers. The petrol figures have implications for retailers, especially petrol marketing groups. The Chinese inflation data is of importance to exporters and importers.

What does it all mean?

The housing sector has shown signs of slowing, however Aussies are still taking out home loans to build homes or buy homes to live in, albeit at a more moderate pace. Overall it is an encouraging result suggesting that a soft landing is underway. The lift in loan activity in February is a sign of confidence in both the state of the job market and the outlook for interest rates.

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Record drop in average home loan: CommSec's Savanth Sebastian

It’s no surprise the strength is in the owner occupied market with loans still up 15 percent on a year ago. In contrast, investor loans are down over 7 percent compared with this time last year. The cooling in the property market is a welcome sign given the ramp up in property over 2014/15.

In addition, a key guide to house price growth - the average loan size - has fallen for the third straight month, down by 4.1 percent or over $15,000 in February – the biggest monthly decline in dollar terms on record. The result was driven by the average loan for established dwellings (down 8 percent over the past three months) and new dwellings (average loan down by over 12 percent in the past three months).

It should be noted that the average home loan is influenced by home prices, composition of borrowers and the geographic location of home purchases.

Interestingly the value of owner occupier and investor loans to build new homes rose by a sizable 5.8 perccent in February and is holding just of record highs - partially a function of price growth.

The Chinese inflation data has clearly been affected by the seasonality in higher food prices (in particular pork prices – up 28 percent over the year to March). Outside food, inflation remains low at 1.0 percent. The timing of Chinese New Year can cause distortions in economic data as has already been apparent in the trade figures.

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Record drop in average home loan: CommSec's Savanth Sebastian

The lift in petrol prices last week was more a function of the discounting cycle across capital cities rather than any major shifts in global oil markets.

Motorists would be well rewarded for keeping an eye on petrol signboards and filling up at the cheap end of the cycle. In Adelaide, petrol is below a $1 a litre, while In Sydney and Brisbane, prices are near $1.25 - $1.29 a litre after lifting a much as 20 cents a litre in the past week. Melbourne prices peaked 10 days ago and have so far eased to around $1.20 a litre.

What do the figures show?

Housing finance - number

The number  of new owner-occupier housing loans (commitments) rose by 1.4 percent in February after sliding by 4.4 percent in January. Excluding the refinancing of dwellings, the number of loans was up by 1.6 percent.

Loans by owner-occupiers for the construction of homes  fell by 1.9 percent in February; loans to buy newly erected dwellings  fell by 15.4 percent; and loans for the purchase of established dwellings  (excluding refinancing) rose by 5.5 percent. The number of refinancing transactions  fell by 0.4 percent.

Housing finance - value

The value of new housing commitments (owner occupier and investment) rose by 2.6 percent in February after a 3.7 percent increase in February. Owner-occupier loans rose by 1.7 percent while investment loans rose by 4.1 percent.

The value of loans by owner-occupiers and investors to build new homes rose by 5.8 percent in February after a fall of 1.6 percent in January. The value of loans to build new homes stood at a 14-month high of $2.95 billion, marginally weaker than the record high of $2.97 billion in December 2014.

 Housing finance – other statistics

The proportion of first-time buyers in the home loan market fell from 15.1 percent to 14.7 percent in February. (However the figures take into account refinancing loans and as such the figures may misrepresent the true situation). 

The proportion of fixed rate loans eased from 13.6 percent to 13.1 percent in February. And the average home loan across Australia stood at $357,200 in February, up 7.8 percent on a year ago, but down 4.1 percent in the month.

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Record drop in average home loan: CommSec's Savanth Sebastian

Chinese inflation:

Consumer prices fell by 0.4 percent in March to be up 2.3 percent on the year. The annual result was below the forecast of 2.5 percent but in line with the February result.

Non-food prices fell by 0.1 percent in the month to be up 1.0 percent over the year. The February annual result was also +1.0 percent. Prices of consumer goods rose 2.5 percent over the year (February 2.6 percent) with services up 1.9 percent (February 1.8 percent).

Food prices fell by 1.8 percent in March after rising by 6.7 percent in February (reflecting Chinese New Year effects). Food prices are up 7.6 percent over the year, up from the 7.3 percent annual gain in February. Pork prices fell by 1.3 percent after rising by 6.3 per cent in February. Pork prices are up 28.4 per cent in the year to March, up from the 25.4 per cent annual increase to February.

Consumer good categories (year to March): Food, tobacco and alcohol 6.0 percent; Clothing 1.5 percent; Rent, fuel & utilities 1.3 percent; Household goods 0.4 percent; Transport and communication -2.6 percent; Education, culture and recreation 1.2 percent ; Healthcare 3.1 percent; Other goods and services 1.7 percent.

Producer prices fell by 4.3 per cent in the year to March, firmer than the 4.9 per cent decline to February and below market forecasts centred on a 4.6 per cent decline. It was the smallest rate of decline since January 2015.

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Record drop in average home loan: CommSec's Savanth Sebastian

Petrol prices

According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the  national average Australian price of unleaded petrol rose by 4.1 cents per litre to 114.4 cents per litre in the week to April 10. The metropolitan petrol price rose by 5.5 cents to 115.2 cents per litre while the regional price rose by 1.1 cents to 112.7 cents per litre.

The national average Australian price of diesel petrol rose by 0.7 cents to 112.3 cents per litre in the week to April 10. Last week the metropolitan price rose by 0.5 cents to 111.3 c/l, while the regional average price was up 0.9 cents to 113.2 c/l.

Average unleaded petrol prices across states and territories over the past week were: Sydney (up by 4.9 cents to 110.1 c/l), Melbourne (up by 12.3 cents to 124.9 c/l), Brisbane (up 7.2 cents to 116.9 c/l), Adelaide (down 6.0 cents to 100.5 c/l), Perth (down 0.5 cents to 111.5 c/l), Darwin (up by 0.2 cents to 115.6 c/l), Canberra (down 0.1 cents to 117.0 c/l) and Hobart (up by 0.2 cents to 117.4 c/l).

Today the national average wholesale (terminal gate) unleaded petrol price stands at 101.4 cents per litre, down 2.8 cents per litre on a week ago but still up 5.6 cents a litre on than the lows set in mid-February. The terminal gate diesel price stands today at 94.50 cents a litre, down 2.2 cents a litre over the week.

Last week the key Singapore gasoline price rose by US80c or 1.5 per cent to US$53 a barrel. In Australian dollar terms the Singapore gasoline price rose by $2.11 a barrel (3.1 per cent) to $70.34 a barrel or 44.24 cents a litre.

MotorMouth records the following retail prices for capital cities today: Sydney 125.9c; Melbourne 119.7c; Brisbane 128.7c; Adelaide 99.5c; Perth 100.8c; Canberra 111.3c; Darwin 114.4c; Hobart 117.7c.

What is the importance of the economic data?

Housing Finance data is produced monthly by the Bureau of Statistics and shows commitments by lenders, such as banks, to provide finance for housing purposes. The lending figures relate to those looking to buy or build homes to live in as well as those seeking to buy or build homes for investment purposes. Generally people get their finance organised first, so the figures are regarded as a leading indicator on the housing market.

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.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics releases its monthly economic statistics around mid-month. Quarterly GDP data is released around the 19th of January, April, July and October. China’s Customs Office releases trade data, and the People’s Bank of China releases financial statistics, around the 10th of each month. China is Australia’s largest trading partner and changes in the Chinese economic have major implications for the Aussie economy.

What are the implications for interest rates and investors?

Petrol prices look set to bounce around current levels although capital city motorists must still contend with the vagaries of the discounting cycle.

While it is hard to read too much into it, Chinese consumer prices have lifted in recent months largely due to the seasonality in food inflation. If inflation was a result of stronger demand, it would be seen as positive in the current environment by investors.

The Reserve Bank will be comforted by the more stable conditions in the investor housing market.

CommSec expects no change to interest rate settings for the foreseeable future.

Savanth Sebastian is an economist for CommSec

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