In the latest minutes, released today, there was interesting commentary on their perspective of household consumption growth, savings ratio, and housing activity. They are expecting a growth in household consumption. However, this does not necessarily jive with DFA’s Household Finance Confidence Index, which reported a fall in the most recent results.
Turning to developments in the household sector, members noted that growth in household consumption had increased in the September quarter to be close to its decade average in year-ended terms. Growth was expected to be similar in the December quarter, based on recent retail sales data, indications from the Bank’s retail liaison that trading conditions had improved in the Christmas and post-Christmas sales period, and surveys suggesting that perceptions of households’ own finances remained above average. Household consumption growth had been supported by low interest rates, lower petrol prices and increasing employment, despite relatively subdued household income growth. These factors were expected to support a further increase in consumption growth over the forecast period.
Members observed that although the saving ratio had been declining, recent revisions to national accounts data suggested that this decline was not as pronounced as previously thought. As a result, the saving ratio had remained close to 10 per cent over the past five years, which was a significant step up from its average over the previous two decades but not particularly high from a longer-run perspective.
Dwelling investment had increased strongly over the year to the September quarter and further growth was anticipated, albeit at a gradually declining rate. This was consistent with building approvals, which were at a high level, although lower than in early 2015. Members noted that some other indicators of dwelling investment, including loan approvals for new construction, had been more positive in recent months. Information from liaison contacts indicated that demand for high-density housing in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane had been sufficient to absorb the increase in the supply that had come onto the market, whereas demand had been somewhat weaker in Perth, which had experienced a decline in prices and rents for apartments over the past year. To date, there had not been any substantive signs of financial distress from developers, but there had been an increasing number of projects put on hold, particularly in areas where there were concerns about potential oversupply. Conditions in the established housing market more generally had eased in recent months. Housing prices had declined a little from September 2015 and auction clearance rates had fallen from very high levels to around their long-run averages.
Housing credit growth overall had stabilised at around 7½ per cent, following a period of rising growth since late 2012. Growth in credit to investors in housing had declined, offset by an increase in growth in credit to owner-occupiers. This was consistent with the larger increase in mortgage rates for investors and the strengthening of banks’ non-price lending terms in response to earlier supervisory actions.