Fitch doesn't expect sharp property correction

Fitch doesn't expect sharp property correction
Fitch doesn't expect sharp property correction

Fitch Ratings does not expect a "sharp or subdued" correction in the housing market because economic growth and unemployment will remain "benign."

Fitch forecasts 2.7 per cent economic growth, 5.5 per cent unemployment and reliance on commodity exports as a possible source of volatility.

"High residential property prices and borrower indebtedness could also cause economic stress," the report concludes.

As part of a housing "stress test", the global credit rating agency recently calculated that the big four would suffer $24 billion in losses if house prices fell 43 per cent and defaults hit 13 per cent.

However, recoveries from lenders' mortgage insurers would cut the loss to about $19 billion.

It suggested the $1.3 trillion mortgage books of Australia's big four banks could withstand an Ireland-style correction in property prices but the lenders' ability to deal with second-order impacts remained uncertain.

"CBA would experience the largest losses under our analysis, followed by Westpac, reflecting these banks' larger exposures to Australian mortgages than ANZ and NAB," the agency said.

Fitch's forecast for Australian economic growth came as the Reserve Bank of Australia warned that high domestic debt makes households more sensitive to changes in income and interest rates.

It estimated households should be able to afford a mortgage rate "well more than 2 per cent higher than it is currently".

The most probable source of an economic shock would be external, Fitch suggests.

"A rapid increase in the unemployment rate remains the most likely driver of a significant housing market correction, although sharply higher interest rates would also pressure some borrowers – given the level of household debt."

The agency said another risk was the rollover of $480 billion of interest-only loans over the next three years.

Fitch foresees a further tightening of underwriting standards, given the increased scrutiny of the Hayne royal commission, which could affect the housing market. 

"This will probably result in a further decline in the maximum amount many borrowers can obtain from a bank, and could have an adverse impact on house prices as a result."

Housing Markets Housing Boom

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