Lending to households slightly increases

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The value of new lending commitments to households rose 2.6% in February on a seasonally adjusted basis. However, figures are still restrained, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The jump in lending to households follows a 2.3% fall in January.

"Despite the rise in February, the longer-term story is largely unchanged with new lending to households remaining subdued and well down on levels seen over the past five years,” said ABS Chief Economist Bruce Hockman.

Lending for owner-occupier dwellings in New South Wales, for instance, is still down over 20% from its peak in August 2017, despite recording an 8.2% monthly rise in lending commitments in February.

At the national level, the value of lending for owner-occupier dwellings rose 3.4% in February, while lending for investment dwellings recorded a more modest increase of 0.9%.

The number of loans to owner-occupier first-home buyers rose 1.8%, slightly surpassing the growth in the number of loans to owner-occupier non-first-home buyers (up 1.6%). Both series, though, remain well below February 2018.

Lending to households for personal finance rose 0.4% in February after a 1.2% rise in January. ABS said that this is the first back-to-back increase in lending for personal finance since late 2017. However, the components of this lending generally connected to household consumption are still relatively weak.

 “In seasonally adjusted terms, the fall in housing lending is nearing the trough and is expected to bump along the bottom for the remainder of 2019, with no quick turnaround in sight,” said Maree Kilroy, economist for BIS Oxford Economics. “On the positive front, loans for the construction of new dwellings, a driver of detached housing, supports our forecast of a more modest decline over the next 6 months for houses compared to high density apartments.”

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