Auction Results 19 Aug 2017

Domain has released the preliminary auction clearance results for today. Melbourne looks like it is leading the way at 78.3% clearance, ahead of Sydney. Still seems to be momentum in the main centres.

Brisbane achieved 50% clearance on 100 scheduled auctions, Adelaide 67% on 67 scheduled, and Canberra 74% of 37 scheduled auctions.

 

The Debt Monster – The Property Imperative Weekly – 19 Aug 2017

Household Incomes are growing at the slowest rate for two decades, putting more strain on family budgets who are wrestling with rising costs and bigger mortgages and battling the debt monster.

What the implications for home prices, and the broader economy? Welcome the Property Imperative weekly to 19th August 2017, as we look at the latest finance and property news.

Last week we saw auction clearance rates accelerate. According to CoreLogic they rose to 2,011, compared with 1,857 over the previous week.  This was the largest number of auctions held since the last week of June 2017 and one third higher compared with the same week a year ago. Melbourne has held the record for the largest number of sales, but Sydney achieved a higher clearance rate at 72%. So not much sign of the property market flagging.

More data came from the RBA when Assistant Governor Christopher Kent discussed insights from a dataset which covers about 280 ‘pools’ of securitised assets and has information on 1.6 million individual mortgages with a total value of around $400 billion. Currently, this accounts for about one-quarter of the total value of home loans outstanding in Australia.

A couple of caveats. While the dataset covers a significant share of the market for housing loans, it may not be entirely representative across all its dimensions. In particular, the choice of assets in the collateral pool may be influenced by the way that credit ratings agencies assign ratings and by investor preferences. Also, in practice it may take quite a while until new loans enter a securitised pool.

But the first thing to note is that rates on owner-occupier loans and investor loans used to be similar, but investor loans became relatively more expensive from the latter part of 2015. In fact, up until most recently, actual rates paid on interest-only loans have been lower than those on principal-and-interest loans. But now, interest only loans are significantly more expensive for both owner-occupied and investor borrowers. This is reflecting recent bank repricing as they seek to repair margins and throttle back interest only lending in response to regulatory pressure. Monthly repayments are on the rise, and on large loans this is a significant impost.

Looking at loan to value ratios, we see that there is a large share of both owner-occupier and investor loans with current LVRs between 75 and 80 per cent. That is consistent with banks limiting the share of loans with LVRs (at origination) above 80 per cent. Also, borrowers have an incentive to avoid the cost of mortgage insurance, which is typically required for loans with LVRs (at origination) above 80 per cent. This is consistent with the DFA market model, and suggests that a common held view that the average LVR is circa 50% is not correct any more. Bigger loans, lower equity, larger repayments.

Finally, they looked at offset accounts, which showed strong growth up to 2015 probably related to the rise in the share of interest-only loans, with the two being offered as a package. Interestingly, we saw a significant slowing in growth in offset balances around the same time as growth in interest-only housing loans started to decline. Offset balances provide some security for borrowers in times of finance stress.  But the RBA highlights that for investor loans, even after accounting for offset balances, there is still a noticeable share of loans with current LVRs of between 75 and 80 per cent. And for both investor and owner-occupier loans, adjusting for offset balances leads to only a small change in the share of loans with current LVRs greater than 80 per cent. This suggests that borrowers with high current LVRs have limited repayment buffers.

Oh, and note there was no analysis at all on the most critical metric – loan to income ratios, which as we have been highlighting is a more reliable risk assessment tool, but one which in Australia we appear loathe to discuss.

This becomes important when we consider that home prices continue to rise in most states. Separate analysis from CoreLogic showed that the cost of housing has continued to rise across most parts of the country over the past 12 months, pushing the proportion of homes selling for at least one million dollars to new record highs.  Bracket creep should come as no surprise in markets like Sydney and Melbourne where dwelling values have increased by 77% and 61% respectively over the past five years.  While the rise in housing values has been most pronounced in Sydney and Melbourne, most other capital cities and regional areas have also seen a proportional lift in home sales over the million-dollar mark.

The banks continue to lend strongly in the mortgage sector, with system growth still sitting around 6% over the past year. ANZ, who reported their third quarter results this week revealed that they had grown their owner occupied lending at 1.3 times system growth, whilst investor loans grew at 0.8%. Lenders are still banking on mortgage credit growth.

The RBA minutes were more muted this month, perhaps because of the reaction to the 2% rate lift to neutral last month, which was hurriedly walked back subsequently! They mentioned concerns about high household debt again, and that inflation is running below 2%. They also mentioned that the Australian Bureau of Statistics intends to update the weights in the CPI in the December quarter 2017 CPI release, to reflect changes in consumers’ spending behaviour over recent years. This is expected to lead to lower reported CPI inflation because the weights of items whose prices had fallen were likely to be higher, whereas the weights of items whose prices had risen were likely to be lower.

Underlying inflation was expected to be close to 2 per cent in the second half of 2017 and to edge higher over the subsequent two years. Retail electricity prices were expected to increase sharply in the September quarter. They said “ongoing low wage growth and the high level of debt on household balance sheets raised the possibility that consumption growth could be lower than forecast”.

The income data from the ABS confirmed low wage growth, with seasonally adjusted, private sector wages up just 1.8 per cent and public sector wages up 2.4 per cent through the year to June quarter 2017. So wages for those not fortunate enough to work in the public sector continues to be devalued in real terms.  Also, whilst more jobs were created in July, the employment rate is still quite high, and underemployment remains a significant factor – one reason why wages growth is unlikely to shift higher.

So, what are the consequences of home lending rising 6%, inflation 2% and incomes below this? The short answer is more debt, and mostly mortgage debt.

To get a feel for the impact of this, look at our recent focus group results.  Around two thirds of the households in the session held a basic assumption that high debt levels were normal. They had often accumulated debts through their education, when they bought a house, and running credit cards. Even more interestingly, their concern from a cash flow perspective was about servicing the debts, not repaying them. One quote which struck home was “once I am dead, my debts are cancelled, I just keep borrowing until then”.

Debt, it seems has become part of the furniture, and will remain a spectre at the feast throughout their lifetime.  The banks will be happy!

So it is worth looking at some long term trends, as we did on Friday using RBA data.

The traditional argument trotted out is that household wealth is greater than ever, this despite low income growth and rising debt. But of course wealth is significantly linked to home prices, which in turn is linked to debt, so this is a circular argument. You get a different perspective by looking at some additional trends.  And if property prices fell it would all turn sour.

But let’s start with the asset side of the ledger. Since 1999, superannuation has grown by 181.2%, and at the fastest rate. But it is arguably the least accessible asset class.

Residential property values rose 160.2% over the same period, and grew significantly faster than equities which achieved 135.8% growth, so no wonder people want to invest in property – the capital returns have been significantly more robust. Deposit savings grew 159.1% (but the savings ratio has been declining recently). Overall household net worth rose 151.2%. So the story about households being more affluent can be supported on this view of the data. But it is myopic.

Overall household debt rose 161.9%, a growth rate which is higher than residential property values, at 160.2% and above overall household net worth at 151.2%.

But the growth in income, which is a puny 60.5%, under half the asset growth. OK, interest rates are lower now, but this increase in leverage is phenomenal – and explains the “debt is normal” findings from our focus groups. I accept debt is not equally spread across the population, but there are significant pockets of high borrowing, as can be seen from our mortgage stress analysis – and it’s not just among battling urban fringe mortgage holders.

Finally, it is worth noting the growth in the number of residential properties rose by just 29.8% over the same period. So the average value of individual properties has increased significantly. On paper.

To me this highlights we have learned nothing from the GFC. Our appetite for debt, supported by the low interest rate monetary policy, significant tax breaks, and salted by population growth has created a debt monster, which has the capacity to consume many if interest rates were to rise towards more normal levels. Unlike Governments, household debt has to be repaid, eventually.

This data series shows clearly the relationship between more debt and home prices, they feed of each other, and this explains why the banks have enjoyed such strong balance sheet growth. But the impact on households is profound, and long term. Our current attitude to debt will be destructive eventually.

If you are interested in this debate, try to watch ABC Four Corners on Monday night, as they will be looking at the housing bubble and mortgage stress, and using some of our data in the programme.

And that’s the Property Imperative to 19th August 2017. If you found this useful, do subscribe to get updates, and check back for next week’s installment. Thanks for watching.

Another Perspective On Debt

We had significant reaction to yesterday’s post on the “normal” status of high household debt. So today we take the argument further using data from the RBA Household Balance Sheet series (E1) and the recent ABS data on income growth.

The traditional argument trotted out is that household wealth is greater than ever, this despite low income growth and rising debt. But of course wealth is significantly linked to home prices, which in turn is linked to debt, so this is a circular argument. You get a different perspective by looking at some additional trends.

But lets start with the asset side of the ledger. We have base-lined the data series from 1999. Since then, superannuation has grown by 181.2%, and at the fastest rate. But it is arguably the least accessible asset class.

Residential property values rose 160.2% over the same period, and grew significantly faster than equities which achieved 135.8% growth, no wonder people want to invest in property – the capital returns have been significantly more robust. Deposit savings grew 159.1% (but the savings ratio has been declining recently). Overall household net worth rose 151.2%. So the story about households being more affluent can be supported on this view of the data. But it is myopic.

The chart below tracks overall household debt, house prices, household net worth, income growth and the growth in the number of residential properties.

Overall household debt rose 161.9%, a growth rate which is higher than residential property values, at 160.2% and above overall household net worth at 151.2%.

But look at the growth in income, which is 60.5%, under half the asset growth. OK, interest rates are lower now, but this increase in leverage is phenomenal – and explains the “debt is normal” findings from our focus groups. I accept debt is not equally spread across the population, but there are significant pockets of high borrowing, as can be seen from our mortgage stress analysis – and its not just among battling urban fringe mortgage holders.

Finally, it is worth noting the growth in the number of residential properties rose by just 29.8% over the same period. So the average value of individual properties have increased significantly. On paper.

To me this highlights we have learned nothing from the GFC, our appetite for debt, supported by the low interest rate monetary policy, significant tax breaks, and salted by population growth has created a debt monster, which has the capacity to consume many if interest rates were to rise towards more normal levels. Unlike Governments, household debt has to be repaid, eventually.

This data series shows clearly the relationship between more debt and home prices, they feed of each other, and this explains why the banks have enjoyed such strong balance sheet growth. But the impact on households is profound, and long term.

Our current attitude to debt will be destructive eventually.

Employment Remains A Mixed Picture

The ABS reported their monthly employment data today, showing that trend full-time employment increased for the 10th straight month in July 2017 but both the trend unemployment rate in Australia was steady at 5.6 per cent in July 2017, and the labour force participation rate remained at 65.0 per cent.

Let’s be clear 5.6% hardly a great result as The New Daily highlights, bearing in mind the unemployment rate in the US, is 4.3%, 4.5% in the UK, 3.9% in Germany and 2.8% in Japan.  Note also that wages are depressed in these countries too. We should not get deflected by the rising number of jobs, which is where the Government would like us to look.  We should be doing better. This does not reflect “full employment”.

Full-time employment grew by a further 29,000 persons, while part-time employment decreased by 3,000 persons, underpinning a total increase in employment of 26,000 persons. The trend monthly hours worked increased by 5.2 million hours (0.3 per cent) to 1,696.4 million hours in July 2017.

Over the past year, trend employment increased by 259,000 persons (or 2.2 per cent), which is above the average year-on-year growth over the past 20 years (1.9 per cent).

The rate of employment growth (2.2 per cent) was greater than the growth in the population aged 15 years and over (1.6 per cent), which was reflected in an increase in the employment to population ratio (which is a measure of how employed the population is). This ratio increased by 0.4 percentage points since July 2016, up to 61.4 per cent, the highest it has been since April 2013.

“Full-time employment has now increased by around 220,000 persons since September 2016, and makes up the majority of the 250,000 person increase in employment over the period,” Chief Economist for the ABS, Bruce Hockman, said.

Over the past year the three states and territories with the strongest growth in employment were Tasmania (4.0 per cent), Victoria (3.1 per cent) and Queensland (2.7 per cent).

Trend series smooth the more volatile seasonally adjusted estimates and provide the best measure of the underlying behaviour of the labour market.

The seasonally adjusted number of persons employed increased by 28,000 in July 2017. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.6 per cent and the labour force participation rate was 65.1 per cent.

Is This Amount of Debt “Normal”?

As part of our household survey we had the chance to discuss household debt in our focus group. We had selected participants with large debt burdens, because we wanted to understand better what was driving this behaviour. It was mixed group, with households represented between 20 and 60 years, from multiple locations.  The RBA data showing high household debt prompted the research.

In the session, a number of themes emerged. Yes we got the story about incomes not rising, costs going up and big mortgages; as expected. But there was another theme that struck home to the facilitators.

It is this. Around two thirds of the households in the session had a basic assumption that high debt levels were normal. They had often accumulated debts through their education, when they bought a house, and running credit cards. Even more interestingly, their concern from a cash flow perspective was about servicing the debts, not repaying them.

One quote which struck home was “once I am dead, my debts are cancelled”, I just keep borrowing til then.

Wow! Debt, it seems has become part of the furniture, and will remain a spectre at the feast throughout their lifetime.  The banks will be happy!

But this got me thinking about the implications of this observation. If households are making debt decisions based on just debt servicing, what does that say about their future cash flow in a low income growth, potentially rising interest rate environment? Is this normal behaviour now?  Has financial literacy failed, or is there a new logic in town?

If there is, then I have to ask – am I out of kilter in believing that debt can be useful, but it should be paid down as soon as possible, and that borrowing is the exception, not the rule.  Or is the new normal to be saddled with high debt, and live with it? For ever?

The remaining one third, by the way, were more conscious of the need to repay, and were surprised by the majority view in the room.

No wonder households are more highly in debt than ever as the recent RBA data shows. But what I am getting at are the cultural norms which now exist. As a result, lenders will continue to have a field day, but what are the true economic and social costs of this phenomenon?

We hope to do more research on this. Watch this space.

Income Growth Stagnant

The latest data from the ABS shows that income growth remains in the doldrums, putting more pressure on households who are experiencing rising costs (including mortgages), as our Household Finance Confidence Index shows. Given where inflation sits (1.9% on the official figures, but understated we think), many continue to go backwards. This also kills the Treasury budget assumptions. We do not see any reversal of this trend, despite recent positive business lending.

The seasonally adjusted Wage Price Index (WPI) rose 0.5 per cent in June quarter 2017 and 1.9 per cent over the year, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The WPI, seasonally adjusted, has recorded quarterly wages growth in the range of 0.4 to 0.6 per cent for the last 12 quarters (from September quarter 2014).

ABS Chief Economist Bruce Hockman noted: “Low wages growth continued in the June quarter 2017, with annual wages growth continuing to hover around 2 per cent. This low wages growth reflects, in part, ongoing spare capacity in the labour market. Underemployment, in particular, is an indicator of labour market spare capacity and a key contributor to ongoing low wages growth.”

The annual trend is clear to see. Public servants are doing a little better than the private sector.

Seasonally adjusted, private sector wages rose 1.8 per cent and public sector wages grew 2.4 per cent through the year to June quarter 2017.

In original terms, through the year wage growth to the June quarter 2017 ranged from 1.1 per cent for the Mining industry to 2.6 per cent for Health care and social assistance industries.

Western Australia recorded the lowest through the year wage growth of 1.4 per cent and South Australia and Northern Territory the highest of 2.1 per cent.

 

 

 

 

Central Bank Inflation Targetting

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand has published a Bulletin article on “An international comparison of inflation-targeting frameworks“. The article compares the inflation-targeting frameworks of 10 advanced economy central banks.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (‘RBNZ’) began targeting inflation as a mechanism to ensure price stability in 1988. The RBNZ’s inflation target framework was then formalised with the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act (1989) and when the first Policy Targets Agreement (‘PTA’) was set in 1990. The Bank of Canada was the second central bank to target inflation, in order to achieve price stability, in 1991. Since then inflation targeting has become internationally regarded as a conventional monetary policy framework. Inflation-targeting frameworks have continued to evolve based on individual country experiences; consequently it is useful to periodically compare the formal and informal inflation-targeting frameworks across advanced economies and understand the key similarities and differences. A previous article by Wood and Reddell (2014) compared the goals for monetary policy across inflation-targeting countries by focusing on primary legislation. This article expands on that analysis by comparing the inflation-targeting frameworks, including informal frameworks, with actual practices.

This article compares the frameworks and practices of 10 advanced economies that employ either full or partial inflation targeting.  This includes six ‘fully fledged’ inflation-targeting central banks: Reserve Bank of New Zealand, the Bank of England (‘BoE’), Norges Bank, the Bank of Canada (‘BoC’), the Reserve Bank of Australia (‘RBA’), and Sveriges Riksbank (‘Riksbank’). These banks explicitly target inflation over a specified time frame in order to achieve price stability, have monetary policy independence, regularly announce monetary policy decisions, and are accountable for policy decisions. Several large central banks also use elements of inflation targeting without either explicitly announcing an inflation target, or they have other objectives alongside low and stable inflation. These are the European Central Bank (‘ECB’), the Swiss National Bank (‘SNB’), the United States Federal Reserve (‘Fed’), and the Bank of Japan (‘BoJ’). Given their importance to international monetary policy, we also assess their frameworks and practices.

The comparison covers five components of an inflation-targeting framework: inflation target definition, communication of monetary policy, secondary considerations5, assessment of the inflation-targeting performance, and framework reviews and revisions. The comparison reveals four key findings.

  1. Despite large differences across inflation-targeting frameworks, the central banks operate and communicate monetary policy similarly.
  2. The central banks pursue forward-looking inflation targets and produce reports that support ex ante and ex post performance
  3. The central banks take account of secondary considerations when setting monetary policy, but not all inflation-targeting frameworks detail how central banks should make these secondary considerations, particularly with regard to financial stability.
  4. Several countries have published reviews of and made revisions to their inflation-targeting frameworks. However, the revisions to the frameworks are not always based on recommendations from published reviews.

The most striking observation from the paper however is the fact that most of the central banks do not expect inflation to return to target any time soon.

This would imply lower interest rates for longer, despite asset price bubbles. This begs the question, is inflation targetting really good and effective policy?

China’s Growth Sustainable Says IMF

The results from the 2017 Article IV consultation with China have been published. The IMF acknowledged that China’s continued strong growth has provided critical support to global demand and they commended the authorities’ ongoing progress in re-balancing the Chinese economy toward services and consumption.

They noted that economic activity had recently firmed and saw this as an opportunity for the authorities to accelerate needed reforms and focus more on the quality and sustainability of growth. They supported the importance of reducing national savings to help prevent domestic and external imbalances and emphasized the need for greater social spending and making the tax system more progressive. Stronger domestic demand helped further reduce China’s external imbalance, though it remains moderately stronger compared to the level consistent with medium-term fundamentals

Amid strong growth, the authorities have pivoted toward tightening measures, reflecting a greater focus on containing financial sector risks.

Debt is now expected to continue to grow as the IMF now assumes that the authorities will broadly maintain current levels of public investment over the medium term and not substantially consolidate the “augmented” deficit, reaching 92 percent of GDP in 2022 on a rising path. Private sector credit is projected to continue increasing over the medium term. Thus, total non-financial sector debt reached about 235 percent of GDP in 2016 and is projected to rise further to over 290 percent of GDP by 2022.

They say downside risks around the baseline have increased. A key consequence of the new baseline is that it envisions China using up valuable fiscal space to support a growth path with slower rebalancing and a higher probability of a sharp adjustment. Thus, if a sharp adjustment were to materialize, China would have lower buffers with which to respond. Such a potential adjustment could be triggered by several risks, including:

  • Funding. A funding shock could come from at least two (related) pressure points. The first is the mostly short-term, “interbank” wholesale market (which includes banks’ claims on each other and on NBFIs). The second is a loss of confidence in short-term asset management products issued by NBFIs, or a run on the WMPs which fund them.
  • Retreat from Cross-Border Integration. Should higher trade barriers be imposed by trading partners, the impact would depend on their coverage and magnitude, how exchange rates respond, and whether China retaliates. For example, an illustrative simulation in the IMF’s Global Integrated Monetary and Fiscal Model suggests that if the U.S. puts a 10-percent tariff on Chinese exports and China allowed its real exchange rate to adjust, real GDP in China would fall by about 1 percentage point in the first year. If China retaliated with similar tariffs on U.S. imports, its GDP would contract further. However, given the complexity of global trade relationships and uncertainty regarding how  exchange rates would adjust, the effect could be larger and more disruptive.
  • Capital Outflows. Pressure on the exchange rate could resume because of a faster-than-expected normalization of U.S. interest rates, much weaker growth in China, or some other shock to confidence. In an extreme scenario, the pressure could lead to renewed large reserve loss and eventually a potential disruptive exchange rate depreciation. However, this risk is likely small in the short run due to the stronger enforcement of CFMs, the prominence of state-owned banks in the foreign exchange market, and ample foreign exchange reserves.

While agreeing on the growth outlook, the authorities disagreed about the associated risks. The authorities agreed that 2017 growth was likely to exceed marginally the 6.5 percent full year target. This implied some deceleration during the course of the year and would result in inflationary pressure remaining contained and a broadly unchanged current account. For the medium term, though the authorities shared the view that their 2020 target of doubling 2010 real GDP would likely be reached, they viewed the debt build-up thus far as manageable and likely to slow further as their reforms take effect. They also explained that their “projected growth targets” were anticipatory and not binding. They underscored that reaching the desired quality of growth was a greater priority than the quantity of growth. The authorities viewed domestic concerns, such as high financial sector leverage, as manageable considering ongoing reforms and Chinese-specific strengths, such as high domestic savings. They saw the external environment as facing many uncertainties, such as an unexpected fall in global demand or a retreat from globalization.

The IMF conclude that:

China continues to transition to a more sustainable growth path and reforms have advanced across a wide domain. Growth slowed to 6.7 percent in 2016 and is projected to remain robust at 6.7 percent this year owing to the momentum from last year’s policy support, strengthening external demand, and progress in domestic reforms. Inflation rose to 2 percent in 2016 and is expected to remain stable at 2 percent in 2017. Important supervisory and regulatory action is being taken against financial sector risks, and corporate debt is growing more slowly, reflecting restructuring initiatives and overcapacity reduction.

Fiscal policy remained expansionary and credit growth remained strong in 2016. Growth momentum will likely decline over the course of the year reflecting recent regulatory measures which have tightened financial conditions and contributed to a declining credit impulse.

The current account surplus fell to 1.7 percent of GDP in 2016, driven by a sharp recovery in goods imports and continued strength in tourism outflows. It is projected to further narrow to 1.4 percent of GDP this year, due primarily to robust domestic demand and a deterioration in terms of trade. Capital outflows have moderated amid tighter enforcement of capital flow management measures and more stable exchange rate expectations. After depreciating 5 percent in real effective terms in 2016, the renminbi has depreciated some 2¾ percent since then and remains broadly in line with fundamentals.

Broker loans almost reach $50bn mark in 2Q17

From Australian Broker.

Australian mortgage brokers have broken new records, bringing in $49.46bn worth of residential home loans through the June 2017 quarter.

This figure, which comes from the Mortgage & Finance Association of Australia’s (MFAA’s) latest quarterly industry survey, shows a growth in loan settlements of $3.4bn between the March and June quarters this year.

The research also found that finance brokers settled 51.5% of all new residential home loans in Australia between April and June. This was an increase of 1.4% from the same time period in 2016.

While this was a decrease from the 53.6% broker market share recorded in the March quarter of this year, this drop was merely seasonal, MFAA CEO Mike Felton told Australian Broker.

“The June quarter is always the seasonal low point in percentage terms in the reporting cycle for broker volumes followed by the December quarter. To get the best view you need to compare June quarters between 2016 and 2017.”

While the seasonal increase observed in the value of home loan business written by brokers in the June quarter was partly responsible for higher lending figures in dollar terms, home prices on the eastern seaboard will also have likely contributed to this result, he said.

The increased market share data reflects the ongoing strength of the industry as well as consumer confidence in the broker proposition, Felton noted.

“Finance brokers provide consumers with greater choice, better personal service, expertise and flexibility. Busy people often look for the convenience brokers offer when organising residential home loans.

“Many finance brokers operate outside of normal office hours and can visit clients in their homes when arranging finance. Such flexibility and personal service is one of many compelling reasons consumers continue to strongly support finance brokers.”

The survey was conducted by CoreLogic’s Comparator service which examined the value of loans settled by 19 leading brokerages and aggregators as a percentage of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) housing finance data.

US Housing Bubble 2.0: Number Of Homebuyers Putting Less Than 10% Down Soars To 7-Year High

From Zero Hedge.

A really long, long time ago, well before most of today’s wall street analysts made it through puberty, the entire international financial system almost collapsed courtesy of a mortgage lending bubble that allowed anyone with a pulse to finance over 100% of a home’s purchase price…with pretty much no questions asked.

And while the millennial titans of high finance today may consider a decade-old case study on mortgage finance to be about as useful as a Mark Twain novel when it comes to underwriting mortgage risk, they may want to considered at least taking a look at the ancient finance scrolls from 2009 before gleefully repeating the sins of their forefathers.

Alas, it may be too late.  As Black Knight Financial Services points out, down payments, the very thing that is supposed to deter rampant housing speculation by forcing buyers to have ‘skin in the game’, are once again disappearing from the mortgage market.  In fact, just in the last 12 months, 1.5 million borrowers have purchased a home with less than 10% down, a 7-year high.

Over the past 12 months, 1.5M borrowers have purchased a home by putting down less than 10 percent, which is close to a seven-year high in low down payment purchase volumes

– The increase is primarily a function of the overall growth in purchase lending, but, after nearly four consecutive years of declines, low down payment loans have ticked upwards in market share over the past 18 months

– Looking back historically, we see that half of all low down payment lending (less than 10 percent down) in 2005-2006 involved piggyback second liens rather than a single high LTV first lien mortgage

– The low down payment market share actually rose through 2010 as the GSEs and portfolio lenders pulled back, the PLS market dried up, and FHA lending buoyed the purchase market as a whole

– The FHA/VA share of purchase lending rose from less than 10 percent during 2005-2006 to nearly 50 percent in 2010

– As the market normalized and other lenders returned, the share of low-down payment lending declined consistent with a drop in the FHA/VA share of the purchase market

On the bright side, at least Yellen’s interest rate bubble means that today’s housing speculators don’t even have to rely on introductory teaser rates to finance their McMansions...Yellen just artificially set the 30-year fixed rate at the 2007 ARM teaser rate…it’s just much easier this way.

“The increase is primarily a function of the overall growth in purchase lending, but, after nearly four consecutive years of declines, low down payment loans have ticked upward in market share over the past 18 months as well,” said Ben Graboske, executive vice president at Black Knight Data & Analytics, in a recent note. “In fact, they now account for nearly 40 percent of all purchase lending.”

At that time half of all low down payment loans being made involved second loans, commonly known as “piggyback loans,” but today’s mortgages are largely single, first liens, Graboske noted.

The loans of the past were also far riskier – mostly adjustable-rate mortgages, which, according to the Black Knight report, are virtually nonexistent among low down payment mortgages today. Instead, most are fixed rate. Credit scores of borrowers taking out these loans today are also about 50 points higher than those between 2004 and 2007.

Finally, on another bright note, tax payers are just taking all the risk upfront this time around…no sense letting the banks take the risk while pretending that taxpayers aren’t on the hook for their poor decisions…again, it’s just easier this way.