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The Reserve Bank has delivered some badly needed relief to mortgage holders, deciding today to leave official interest rates on hold.

For the first time since February, the RBA board did not use its monthly meeting to lift rates which now stand at 4.5 per cent.

In a statement, bank governor Glenn Stevens said the issues around sovereign debt in Europe and its impact on financial markets were a major reason behind the move.

He said the impact of these on the wider economy were still to be determined, arguing global growth is still expected to be around trend for the rest of this year.

But Mr Stevens signalled interest rates were likely in the future on the back of the return of the mining boom.

“In Australia, with the high level of the terms of trade expected to add to incomes and demand, output growth over the year ahead is likely to be about trend, even though the effects of earlier expansionary policy measures will be diminishing,” he said.

“Inflation appears likely to be in the upper half of the target zone over the next year.

Consistent with that outlook, and as a result of actions at previous meetings, interest rates to borrowers are around their average levels of the past decade, which is a significant adjustment from the very expansionary settings reached a year ago.”

The decision followed new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which showed retail sales growing 0.6 per cent in April and a 14.8 per cent collapse in dwelling approvals.

However, the retail sales – while stronger than expected – were pushed up by food sales which jumped 1.3 per cent. Once this sector, which accounts for 40 per cent of all sales, is excluded retail was up just 0.1 per cent.

Other ABS figures showed government spending is holding up the economy and will add about 0.8 percentage points to tomorrow’s GDP result. Without that burst, the economy may have actually contracted in the March quarter.

CommSec chief equities economist Craig James said the figures showed the RBA had no option but to leave rates where they are for some time to come.

“Given the latest round of data, there are good reasons for the Reserve Bank to leave rates on hold for the next few months,” he said.

“Not only are retail sales holding at very weak levels, but the housing sector is showing signs of consolidation.”

Treasurer Wayne Swan says the Reserve Bank’s decision to leave the official cash rate unchanged is a “welcome relief”.

“This news will be welcome relief to Australian families and businesses around the country, who are of course doing it tough,” Mr Swan told parliament minutes after the decision was announced.

The national accounts for the March quarter are due for release on Wednesday.

“I have every confidence that with right polices in place, our economy can continue to be one of the best in the world over coming years,” Mr Swan said. Consistent with that outlook, and as a result of actions at previous meetings, interest rates to borrowers are around their average levels of the past decade, which is a significant adjustment from the very expansionary settings reached a year ago.”

“Not only are retail sales holding at very weak levels, but the housing sector is showing signs of consolidation.”

“Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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Perth properties are being sold quicker than any other state capital, new figures show.

Research from property analysts RP Data and Rismark International shows it took 24 days to sell a house in November and two days fewer for units.

The time taken to sell a unit was the quickest in Australia, while only in Canberra (23 days) were houses sold quicker.

The average price for houses and units in the metropolitan area at the end of November was $460,000.

While that was a drop of 1.09 per cent on October, making Perth the only city where prices fell, it was still an increase of 6.47 per cent on the start of the year and a 5.87 per cent rise on the same time in 2008.

The average house price was $485,000, down 1.11 per cent on October, but up 5.94 per cent since the start of 2009, while units dropped 1 per cent on October, but rose 8.55 per cent in 2009, to average $385,000.

The news was not all good for homeowners. Landlords found rental yields dropping, to 3.94 per cent for houses and 4.41 per cent for units, both down 0.04 of a percentage point on October.

Rismark managing director Christopher Joye said the key drivers in the market in the latter half of 2009 were upgraders and investors, and this was expected to continue this year.

Once mortgage rates “normalised” to between 7 per cent and 8 per cent, price growth would drop back. As many borrowers did not reduce mortgage payments when rates fell, they should be well placed to absorb rises.

Source  :  www.watoday.com.au

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There’s more pain on the way for Australia’s borrowers with the Reserve Bank today raising interest rates for the third time in as many months.

As widely tipped, the central bank lifted its key cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.75 per cent following its monthly board meeting. It’s the first time the RBA has lifted rates three months in a row. (Click here for economists’ reaction, including Michael Pascoe and Peter Martin.)

”In Australia, the downturn was relatively mild, and measures of confidence and business conditions suggest that the economy is in a gradual recovery,” RBA Governor Glenn Stevens said in a statement accompanying the rates verdict. The central bank’s ”gradual” increases in rates will ”work to increase the sustainability of growth in economic activity,” he said.

For a typical mortgage holder on a $300,000 mortgage, today’s rate rise will add about $47 to monthly repayments, assuming commercial banks match the RBA’s move. Officials for most of the major banks this afternoon said their rates policies were under review.

The Reserve Bank has made regular public comments in recent weeks that it sees no need to keep interest rates at ”emergency” levels as the economy rebounds from a slowdown during the past year. Ric Battelino, the RBA’s deputy governor, last week said the economy’s growth is likely to extend ”for a few more years yet.”

More to rises come

Still, the economic data continue to provide mixed readings. A measure of manufacturing activity in November out today showed the sector continues to grow with companies adding jobs, although the stronger Australian dollar slowed the pace of expansion.

Overall building approvals, meanwhile, surprisingly fell 0.6 per cent in October, according to other figures out today. A 5 per cent gain in approvals for private homes was countered by a 19 per cent drop in permits for flats and townhouses.

Even with today’s rate increase, the Reserve Bank’s efforts to tighten monetary policy are likely to be far from over.

”The big change in this statement was their reference to the increases so far as being material,” ANZ’s head of Australian economics Warren Hogan told Reuters.

”I read that as implying that they’re ready to now sit back and watch how these increases affect the economy. And the hurdle for further rate hikes will be much higher than we have seen so far.

“So I think our view that they’re going to 4 (per cent), 4.25 then sit there for much of the year is the right one. There’s every chance they’ll do it in February and March, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s dragged out over a number of months.”

JP Morgan’s Chief Economist Stephen Walters agreed that the RBA may make it four rate rises in a row: “With inflation likely to creep up, and the worst in the economy having passed, there is no need to keep rates at very expansionary levels.”

“We think they will again lift rates in February,” Mr Walters

said. ”The RBA does not meet in January, but I think they will hike when they return after the break. The word ‘gradual’ is still there in the RBA statement and I think they will start going slow in lifting after February.”

Before today’s move, investors were betting that rates would rise to at least 4.75 per cent in a year’s time – equivalent to four more rate rises over the period. Three weeks ago, however, the betting was for rates to rise to 5.25 per cent, indicating confidence in the economy’s strength has recently diminished.

The RBA’s board is not scheduled to meet again until next February.

Political view

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the rate rise would pinch household funds.

”This is tough for families…when rates go up it has an impact on the family budget,” Mr Swan told reporters.

He took aim at old comments from new Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that the government’s billion-dollar stimulus had led to interest rates rises.

”That is laughable and it comes from a political leader who is prone to making erratic statements,” Mr Swan said.

”Mr Abbott is in denial of the fact that this country has performed well in the global recession.”

Even with the latest jump, these rates were last seen in 1967, Mr Swan said.

Mild downturn

A year ago, the Reserve Bank was in the midst of a series of deep interest rate cuts as Australia joined other countries in attempting to limit the damage from the global financial crisis.

Last December, the RBA sliced one full percentage point from its cash rate, lowering it to 4.25 per cent on the way to a fifty year-low of 3 per cent by April. After a pause, the central bank has started to lift rates back towards more normal levels as fears of an economic crunch abate.

”The effects of the early stages of the fiscal stimulus on consumer demand are fading, but public infrastructure spending is starting to provide more impetus to demand,” Mr Stevens said in his statement today.

The jobless rate has been one of the surprises, with Australia’s unemployment holding well below 6 per cent when many had predicted a level in excess of 8 per cent. Business investment has also held up well in large measure due to the sharp rebound in China and India – leaving Australia as one of the few countries to start raising rates.

”Prospects for ongoing expansion of private demand, including business investment, have been strengthening. There have been some early signs of an improvement in labour market conditions,” Mr Steven said. ”The rate of unemployment is now likely to peak at a considerably lower level than earlier expected.”

The RBA believes economic growth ”is likely to be close to trend (in 2010) and inflation close to target.

Market response

In the aftermath of the rates news, the Aussie dollar initially dropped before recovering to about 91.5 US cents in recent trading, close to its level before the RBA statement.

Shares, also turned mildly lower before recovering to be about 0.2 per cent higher for the day with less than an hour of trading left.

Source :   www.theage.com.au

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AUSSIE Home Loans has recorded a strong rise in the number of borrowers looking to refinance their mortgages, as home owners try to take advantage of record low interest rates.

The non-bank lender said refinancing accounted for 38.5 per cent of home loans written in June, up from 30.2 per cent in March.

“There have been plenty of home owners who have been complacent about their mortgages,” Aussie founder and executive chairman John Symond said.

“But our figures show that more and more of them are taking advantage of record interest rate lows and are actively seeking out the best deal.”

However, the number of first home buyers settling home loans dropped to 21.3 per cent of total loans written in June, from 32 per cent in March.

“The steam has abated in the first home buyer market as many of them realise that the properties available are probably already at full price,” Mr Symonds said.

“They are re-assessing the market.”

Aussie is one of Australia’s largest non-bank providers of financial services and has a loan book of more than $30 billion.

Source  :  www.news.com.au

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