Australians hold highest household debt record

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New research by Barclays reveals Australians are the most buried when it comes to borrowing money.

The latest numbers estimate Australian household debt at 130% of GDP, which is the highest level on record, Fairfax Media reports.

Barclays chief economist for Australia, Kieran Davies, told Fairfax Media that private sector debt-to-income gearing is currently at an all-time high of 206%, up from a pre-global financial crisis (GFC) level of 191%.

Australia is leading the world when it comes to household debt, according to Davies, as there is credit continuing to pile up while the rest of the developed world is paying it down.

"Examining the distribution of household debt, Australia has the highest gearing of our large sample of countries, although it was practically a tie with Denmark (129 per cent of GDP)," Davies said.

"Switzerland (120 per cent) [and] the Netherlands (115 per cent) were the next closest countries."

Davies advised to keep in mind that nominal GDP was used rather than household disposable income to calculate its ratios, because of the difficulty of finding historical data for all the countries surveyed.

Davies also found that while consumers and mortgagors are busy racking up debts, Australian companies have become more thrifty.

Davies said the debt of companies represented 76% of GDP, but corporate Australia was markedly more prudent than the country's individuals.

"Although Australian corporate leverage is high by past standards, it is surprisingly low compared with other industrialised countries," he said.

"That is, world leverage, calculated as the simple average of the sample of countries, is currently 106 per cent of GDP, down modestly from the all-time high of 111 per cent of GDP reached in 2009."

Davies said he expects leverage to climb to new highs over 2015 in light of lower interest rates.


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