NAB leaves mortgage rates on hold

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National Australia Bank (NAB) announced on Monday that it will continue to hold its variable mortgage rate, following in the footsteps of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), which kept its official cash rate unchanged a week ago.

NAB’s Standard Variable Rate (SVR) for home loans is currently at 5.24%, and NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn underscored the importance of keeping it at that level, especially during a time when consumers’ confidence is still being regained.

“We are listening and acting differently. We need to rebuild the trust of our customers, and by holding our NAB Standard Variable Rate longer, we help our customers for longer,” Thorburn said.

“By focusing more on our customers, we build trust and advocacy, and this creates a more sustainable business.”

Thorburn also noted in the disclosure that NAB will regularly review its rates and assess whether current market conditions, including funding costs, continue.

More than 930,000 NAB customers are seen to benefit from the decision. On the contrary, If NAB had increased its SVR by 15 basis points, the average home loan customer with a $300,000 loan would have paid an extra $28 each month, or $336 a year, on their repayments. Further, a customer with a $500,000 home loan would have paid an extra $47 each month, or $564 per year, on their repayments.

NAB’s move is in line with the RBA, which opted to retain its interest rates at 1.5%. Last week, CoreLogic head of research Tim Lawless cited specific reasons behind the central bank’s decision.

“There are plenty of factors keeping interest rates on hold, but top of mind is the fact that mortgage rates are already edging higher as lenders look to balance their profit margins against higher funding costs and a smaller deposit base,” Lawless said.

“Plenty of slack remains in the labour market, housing prices are trending lower, household debt levels are at a record high, core inflation is tracking below the RBA’s target range of 2-3% and retail trade is slow.“

In addition, he shared the foreseen steps of the central bank.  “With all this in mind, financial markets are betting the cash rate will stay on hold until at least January 2020. Despite the outlook for a stable cash rate, but slightly higher mortgage rates, we can expect lenders to remain hyper competitive, particularly for high quality borrowers – those with large deposits, lower debt to income ratios and a strong credit history.”

“Even with mortgage rates starting to edge higher, from a historical perspective, rates remain extremely low which will continue to support housing demand. No doubt borrowers will be applying pressure on their lenders to ensure they are on the lowest rate possible,” Lawless concluded.

Other major banks, namely Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, and Westpac Banking Corp., all raised their rates weeks ago.

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