Earlier today the Reserve Bank (RBA) released its financial aggregates data for October 2018. The housing credit data is of particular interest. It covers data from all local mortgage lenders and measures the value of mortgages outstanding. The data is important because it highlights the expansion or contraction in credit.
As at the end of October 2018 there was $1.797 trillion in outstanding housing credit. Housing was overwhelmingly the largest share of outstanding credit, accounting for 62.1% of total credit. Looking at the split between owner occupier and investor credit, owner occupiers accounted for 67.0% of outstanding credit while investors accounted for 33.0% which is that cohort’s lowest share since June 2012.
Total housing credit increased by 0.3% in October 2018 which was its slowest monthly rate of growth since July 1984. The monthly expansion in housing credit has been consistently slowing since February 2018 when it expanded by just 0.5% during the month. On an annual basis, housing credit has expanded by 5.1% which is its slowest annual expansion since October 2013. While the slowdown in credit growth was initially being led by investors, credit growth for owner occupiers is now also slowing.
Owner occupier housing credit increased by 0.4% in October 2018 which was its slowest monthly growth since April 2015. Owner occupier housing credit increased by 7.0% over the 12 months to October 2018 and that was its annual slowest growth since November 2015. The monthly change in owner occupier credit has been slowing since February 2018 which has slowed annual credit growth form 8.1% to the currently 7.0%.
Investor credit recorded a nominal increase of less than 0.1% in October 2018 which was its smallest monthly change since credit fell by -0.1% in June 2018. The monthly change in investor credit has been minimal for a number of years now which is resulting in the weakest annual expansion in investor credit on record. Over the past 12 months, investor credit has expanded by just 1.3%.
It should be noted that the expansion in credit to investors is certainly being driven by fewer new originations (as highlighted in monthly housing finance commitments data). What is less clear but is also likely to be a factor is the ongoing shift from investors away from interest-only mortgages and towards principal and interest. Note that RBA reports around 70% of interest-only mortgages are to investors. In terms of new interest-only lending, APRA reported in the June 2018 quarter that $15.74 billion worth of new interest only mortgages was committed to which was its second lowest quarterly value any time since March 2008. Furthermore, the total value of outstanding interest-only mortgages has fallen to $461.329 billion, its lowest value since September 2014. As borrowers move from interest-only arrangements in which the principal isn’t repaid, to principal and interest mortgages, outstanding credit to investors is expected to keep falling especially as overall investor and interest-only new lending also continues to fall.
Overall, the reduction in housing credit can be attributed to the tighter credit environment, however a range of other factors are also at play in tempering housing credit, including low consumer sentiment, housing affordability constraints and higher mortgage rates. We expect housing credit growth to remain weak. With fewer transactions in the market and ongoing value declines it is reasonable to expect a further slowing of housing credit demand over the coming months.