The latest private sector credit data from the Reserve Bank (RBA) confirms that the sagging demand for credit by investors continued in July 2018. Over the month, total housing credit was recorded at $1.78 trillion and increased by 0.4% to be 5.5% higher over the past year. The $1.78 trillion in outstanding credit for housing was split between $1.183 trillion for owner occupiers, accounting for two thirds of outstanding housing credit, and $593.0 billion to investors which accounted for one third of outstanding housing credit, its lowest share since November 2012.
The 0.4% increase in credit in July 2018 was actually an acceleration from the monthly rate of growth in both May and June. Looking at the split between owner occupiers and investors: owner occupier credit expanded by 0.5% over the month while investor credit grew by 0.1%. The 0.5% monthly increase in owner occupier credit was the slowest rate of growth since June 2015 while the 0.1% monthly increase in investor credit was the strongest growth since March 2018.
Of course monthly data can be somewhat volatile and the annual data indicates more clearly the emerging trends in growth of housing credit. The 5.5% in housing credit over the past year was the slowest rate of growth since December 2013. Owner occupier housing credit increased by 7.6% over the past year which is its slowest annual rate of growth since August 2017.Investor housing credit has expanded by 1.5% over the past 12 months which is its slowest annual rate of growth on record (based on data available from January 1991).
While the monthly data shows a bit of an uplift in housing credit growth, due to an increase in credit to investors, the annual data shows that housing credit expansion is continuing to slow which is a trend that is expected to continue over the coming. As credit availability has been tightened, investor demand has felt the brunt of tighter credit which has contributed to the slowing in credit growth. More recently, smaller lenders and Westpac have increased mortgage rates to owner occupiers which is likely to contribute to a further slowing in owner occupier credit growth and subsequently total credit growth given that owner occupiers account for two thirds of outstanding credit.
With an expectation that housing credit expansion will continue to slow this is likely to contribute to further declines in national dwelling values over the coming months. The prospects for any reversal of fortunes in the national housing market over the short to medium term, at this point, appear fairly slim.