Rural lending in vogue: CommSec's Craig James

Rural lending in vogue: CommSec's Craig James
Rural lending in vogue: CommSec's Craig James
GUEST OBSERVER

Lending: Total new loans (personal, business, housing & lease) fell by 1.4 percent in April after rising by 1.3 percent in March and rising by 2.1 percent in February. Total lending is down 6.9 percent on April 2015. In trend terms lending fell 0.1 percent in April to be down 4 percent on the year.

Within personal fixed finance commitments, loans for new cars were up by 30.5 percent on a year earlier while loans for used cars were up 20.5 percent. Loans for residential blocks of land were down by 6.4 percent on a year ago.

Rural loans lift: In the year to April, loans to the Agriculture, forestry and fishing sector were up by 11.5 percent to $23.3 billion – a 61⁄2 year high and just off the record high of $23.5 billion. 
The lending figures have implications for finance providers, retailers, and companies dependent on consumer and business spending. 


What does it all mean?

When you consider how low interest rates are, the fact that lending is still struggling to push ahead of the highs recorded 71⁄2 years ago is quite remarkable. Businesses and consumers are more inclined to pay down debt rather than take on new commitments showing that the global financial crisis is still affecting the collective psyche.

But there are some stand-out areas. Aussie consumers are keen to update their rides, borrowing a record $15 billion over the past year to buy new or used cars. And in the business space, loans to the rural sector totalled $23.3 billion over the past year, just below record highs. Record car affordability is boosting car sales. And keen global interest in Australia’s food and beverage products are driving interest in the farm sector.

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Rural lending in vogue: CommSec's Craig James

If businesses do start taking on debt with more gusto, this should be a precursor to increased spending on equipment and therefore more investment. For the Reserve Bank, this is the last shoe to drop. The economy is running at the fastest pace in 31⁄2 years, consumer spending is above-normal, housing is strong and the job market is improving. If business investment starts lifting then rate hikes will finally be taken off the agenda

What do the figures show?

Lending Finance

Total new loans (personal, business, housing & lease) fell by 1.4 per cent in April after rising by 1.3 per cent in March and rising by 2.1 per cent in February. Total lending is down 6.9 per cent on April 2015. In trend terms lending fell 0.1 per cent in April to be down 4 per cent on the year.

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Rural lending in vogue: CommSec's Craig James

Housing finance: The seasonally adjusted measure of construction and new purchases rose by 0.1 per cent in April while alterations & additions fell by 0.5 per cent. Home loans are up 7.9 per cent on a year.

Commercial finance: The seasonally adjusted series for the value of total commercial finance commitments fell 3.3 per cent. Revolving credit commitments fell 5.0 per cent and fixed lending commitments fell 2.8 per cent. Business loans are down 14.4 per cent on April 2015.

Personal finance: The seasonally adjusted series for the value of total personal finance commitments rose 5.0 per cent. Revolving credit commitments rose 14.2 per cent, while fixed lending commitments fell 0.9 per cent. Personal loans are up 2.0 per cent over the year.

Within personal fixed finance commitments, loans for new cars were up by 30.5 per cent on a year earlier while loans for used cars were up 20.5 per cent. Loans for residential blocks of land were down by 6.4 per cent on a year ago.

Lease finance: The trend series for the value of total lease finance commitments fell 1.6 per cent in April 2016 and the seasonally adjusted series rose 0.4 per cent, after a fall of 7.8 per cent in March 2016. Lease loans are up 2.9 per cent on the year. 
What is the importance of the economic data?

Lending Finance is released monthly by the Bureau of Statistics and contains figures on new housing, personal, commercial and lease finance commitments. The importance of the data lies in what it reveals about the appropriateness of interest rate settings, confidence and spending levels in the economy.

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Rural lending in vogue: CommSec's Craig James

What are the implications for interest rates and investors?

The latest lending data precedes the May interest rate cut, so we will need to wait a few more months to see how both the rate cut and Budget measures have affected lending.
Business lending has eased over the past five months from 8-year highs. The pull-back in lending is something to monitor, and serves to keep rate cuts on the agenda.

Craig James is the chief economist at CommSec.

 

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Rural New Loans

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