Household Finance Confidence Slips After Christmas Binge

We have released the latest edition of the Digital Finance Analytics Household Finance Confidence Index, to end January 2017 today, which is a barometer of households attitudes towards their finances, derived from our rolling household surveys.

The aggregate index fell slightly from 103.2 in December to 102.68 during January, but is still sitting above a neutral measure of 100, and the trend remains positive. However there are a number of significant variations within the index as we look across states and household segments. These variations are important

First, the state scores are wider now than they have ever been, with households in NSW the most positive, at 110, whilst households in WA slip further to 81. Households in VIC and SA also slipped a little, whilst households in QLD were a little more positive.

The performance of the property market is the key determinate of the outcomes of household finance confidence, with those holding investment property slightly more positive than owner occupied property owners, whilst those who are renting, or living with family or friends are significantly less positive. Whilst some mortgage holders have received or expect to see a lift in their mortgage rate, this is offset by strong capital growth in recent months. The NSW property holders, especially in greater Sydney are by far the most positive. Renters in regional WA, where employment prospects are weaker, are the least positive.

Looking in detail at the drivers of the index, we see a rise by 1% of households who are felling less secure about their employment prospects – especially those in part-time jobs – and more are saying they are under employed.

In terms of the debt burden, there was a 4% rise in those less comfortable about the debt they hold, thanks to rising mortgages, the Christmas spending binge and higher mortgage rates.

More household are saying their real incomes have fallen, up 3%, whilst those who say their costs of living have risen was up 8%.

To offset these negative indicators however, some households reported better returns from term deposits and shares, as well as a significant boost to capital values on their property. Those who said their net worth had risen stood at 64%, up 5% from last month.  The property sector is firmly linked to household confidence, and vice-versa.

By way of background, these results are derived from our household surveys, averaged across Australia. We have 26,000 households in our sample at any one time. We include detailed questions covering various aspects of a household’s financial footprint. The index measures how households are feeling about their financial health. To calculate the index we ask questions which cover a number of different dimensions. We start by asking households how confident they are feeling about their job security, whether their real income has risen or fallen in the past year, their view on their costs of living over the same period, whether they have increased their loans and other outstanding debts including credit cards and whether they are saving more than last year. Finally we ask about their overall change in net worth over the past 12 months – by net worth we mean net assets less outstanding debts.

Positive Property News Supports Household Finance Confidence

The latest Digital Finance Analytics Household Finance Confidence Index, to end December is released today. Overall household confidence is buoyant, and above the neutral setting. Sitting at 103.2, it is up from 100.02 in November.

The property “fairy” has been generous in that property is the key to the index at the moment, with positive news on home price rises, and the effect of the low interest rates following the last RBA cash rate cut flowing through. Home owners with an investment property have now overtaken the confidence score of owner occupied property holders, but both are higher. Those households who are not property active however continue to languish.

We see significant state variations, with those in NSW and VIC most confident, whilst those in WA, although slightly higher, is significantly off the pace.  The impact of changes to the first owner grant there will not flow through into the results for some time to come.

The impact of positive property news has swamped a couple of the negative indicators. For example, more households are saying their costs of living have risen in the past 12 months.

In addition, real incomes, after adjusting for inflation are static or falling. Very few have had any pay rises above inflation, and many none at all.

So, it seems the future of household confidence is joined at the hip with the future of property. In the light of our recent mortgage default modelling, in a rising interest rate market, this may be a concern as we progress through 2017. But at the moment, households are having a party!

By way of background, these results are derived from our household surveys, averaged across Australia. We have 26,000 households in our sample at any one time. We include detailed questions covering various aspects of a household’s financial footprint. The index measures how households are feeling about their financial health. To calculate the index we ask questions which cover a number of different dimensions. We start by asking households how confident they are feeling about their job security, whether their real income has risen or fallen in the past year, their view on their costs of living over the same period, whether they have increased their loans and other outstanding debts including credit cards and whether they are saving more than last year. Finally we ask about their overall change in net worth over the past 12 months – by net worth we mean net assets less outstanding debts.

Household Finance Confidence Higher Again

The latest data from the Digital Finance Analytics Household Finance Confidence Index shows a further improvement, with the November score now just above the 100 neutral position at 100.02. This is up from 98.2 in October, and the first time since 2014 we have been above the neutral setting.

fci-nov-2016-summaryThe full effect of recent rate changes and the availability of low-rate fixed mortgages, together with climbing home values in most states, combined,  have driven both home owners, and property investors confidence higher. In fact, for the first time in more than a year, property investors are more confident than owner occupiers. On the other hand, the one-third of households excluded from the property market drifted lower, thanks to higher costs of living and static or falling incomes.

fci-nov-2016-propertyLooking across the states, households in NSW are much more confident, with VIC slightly behind. Households in WA reported a fall in confidence, thanks to poorer employment prospects and falling home prices.

fci-nov-2016-statesjpgOn average households were a little less comfortable with the amount of debt they hold, thanks to expectations that interest rates have passed their low point, and will rise. 27.6% of households were less comfortable, up 3.9% from last month.

fci-nov-2016-debtWe also see a continued fall in real incomes, thanks to rising costs and flat or falling pay. 47.5% said their incomes had fallen, in real terms, in the past year, up 2.3% last month.

fci-nov-2016-income Households reported improved investment incomes from stocks and term deposits. However, appetite for investment property, especially down the east coast remains strong.

On average, younger households were less confident compared with those aged above 50 years.

By way of background, these results are derived from our household surveys, averaged across Australia. We have 26,000 households in our sample at any one time. We include detailed questions covering various aspects of a household’s financial footprint. The index measures how households are feeling about their financial health. To calculate the index we ask questions which cover a number of different dimensions. We start by asking households how confident they are feeling about their job security, whether their real income has risen or fallen in the past year, their view on their costs of living over the same period, whether they have increased their loans and other outstanding debts including credit cards and whether they are saving more than last year. Finally we ask about their overall change in net worth over the past 12 months – by net worth we mean net assets less outstanding debts.

Household Financial Confidence Higher as Rates Fall

We release the October edition of the Digital Finance Analytics Household Finance Confidence Index (FCI) today. Overall average confidence is up again, as a direct response to the RBA rate cut, and property owning households are the more confident. The index reached 98.2, up from 97.1 last month, and is trending towards the long term neutral setting. Property Investors and Households with Owner Occupied property continue to move above the neutral setting, thanks to continued capital appreciation (in most centres) and lower mortgage rates and some rises in term deposit rates.  Those without property interests drag the average down, highlighting again how important property is to household finances.

fci-oct-16On a state basis, NSW and VIC are most positive. WA the least positive, reflecting falls in home prices, rising rental vacancies and less appetite for property.

fci-oct-16-states Household income, in real terms remain in the doldrums, putting more pressure on those with larger mortgages.

fci-oct-16-incomeBy way of background, these results are derived from our household surveys, averaged across Australia. We have 26,000 households in our sample at any one time. We include detailed questions covering various aspects of a household’s financial footprint. The index measures how households are feeling about their financial health. To calculate the index we ask questions which cover a number of different dimensions. We start by asking households how confident they are feeling about their job security, whether their real income has risen or fallen in the past year, their view on their costs of living over the same period, whether they have increased their loans and other outstanding debts including credit cards and whether they are saving more than last year. Finally we ask about their overall change in net worth over the past 12 months – by net worth we mean net assets less outstanding debts.

Household Financial Confidence Improves, If You Hold Property

The latest edition of the Digital Finance Analytics Household Finance Confidence Index (FCI) to end September 2016 is released today. Using data from our household surveys we examine how households regard their overall financial position. The composite index rose from 95.8 in August to 97.2 in September, the highest reading for a couple of years, though still just below its 100 neutral setting. It is dragged down by households excluded from the property market.

fci-sept-2016This average national score masks some important differences. First, the score varies by state. Households in NSW and VIC are now above the neutral setting, thanks to improving job prospects, rising home prices, and lower interest rates on mortgages. With stock markets on the rise, the only negative indicator in these states is low returns on bank savings (which is encouraging more to look at investment property) and high debt. Costs of living, though rising, seem largely manageable.

There is a different story in WA and SA, where unemployment is a higher risk, property prices are muted, and debt remains high. QLD sits between the two extremes, with households in and around Brisbane mirroring the results in NSW, whilst regional QLD is mirroring WA; a state divided. In these states, costs of living are more of a concern.

fci-sept-2016-statesLooking at the results by property owning segmentation, owner occupied home owners are the most positive about their financial position, thanks to the increasing wealth effect of rising home prices, in an ultra-low interest rate environment. Property investors are increasingly confident, thanks to better than expected capital values, lower interest rates and no disruption to capital gains or negative gearing policy. The only shadow on their horizon is flat rental incomes and poor tenant behaviour.

However, one quarter of households are property inactive – mainly in rental accommodation, or living with friends or family. They are excluded from the wealth effect of property. With incomes static, the costs of rent, alongside other costs of living, kept their scores much lower (and indeed take the national average below its neutral setting). Take property inactive households out of the equation, and the remaining groups would be well above the neutral setting. Your property owning status determines your wealth footprint – no wonder people aspire to get on the property ladder, at almost any cost!

fci-sept-2016-pty Finally, we look at one of the specific dimensions in the survey. This month we look at debt exposure. Two thirds of borrowing households are as comfortable with the debts they hold as a year ago (bigger debts, but lower interest rates). Around 7% are more comfortable than a year ago, and 24% less comfortable, driven by finding it more difficult to service their debts in a low income growth, high cost growth environment. Remember, interest rates are very low at the moment, so this level of debt pressure remains a concern. If rates were to rise, pressure on these households would rise, fast.

fci-sept-2016-debtBy way of background, these results are derived from our household surveys, averaged across Australia. We have 26,000 households in our sample at any one time. We include detailed questions covering various aspects of a household’s financial footprint. The index measures how households are feeling about their financial health. To calculate the index we ask questions which cover a number of different dimensions. We start by asking households how confident they are feeling about their job security, whether their real income has risen or fallen in the past year, their view on their costs of living over the same period, whether they have increased their loans and other outstanding debts including credit cards and whether they are saving more than last year. Finally we ask about their overall change in net worth over the past 12 months – by net worth we mean net assets less outstanding debts.

Household Financial Security Confidence Improves Again

The latest edition of the Digital Finance Household Finance Confidence Index, to end August is released today. Overall the index rose again, from 95.1 to 95.8.

Household costs were relatively contained, whilst many received a boost from the RBA cash rate cut. Some savers were able to take advantage of higher term deposit rates, although others saw their returns on cash deposits falling further. Income growth remained static, but net worth improved thanks to rises in the value of property and shares. Overall the index remains below a neutral setting, but some households in some states are now well into positive territory.

fci-aug-2016 The cash rate cut helped to propel the confidence of those with owner occupied and investment property, while those who are property inactive did not show the same rise. In addition, the more recent positive home price rises bolstered property investors.

fci-aug-2016-ptyThe state variations continue to widen, with households in NSW and VIC well into positive territory, whilst those in WA languish.

fci-aug-2016-statesBy way of background, these results are derived from our household surveys, averaged across Australia. We have 26,000 households in our sample at any one time. We include detailed questions covering various aspects of a household’s financial footprint. The index measures how households are feeling about their financial health. To calculate the index we ask questions which cover a number of different dimensions. We start by asking households how confident they are feeling about their job security, whether their real income has risen or fallen in the past year, their view on their costs of living over the same period, whether they have increased their loans and other outstanding debts including credit cards and whether they are saving more than last year. Finally we ask about their overall change in net worth over the past 12 months – by net worth we mean net assets less outstanding debts.

 

Household Finance Confidence Improves In June – DFA

The latest edition of the Digital Finance Analytics Household Finance Confidence Index to end June is released today. Overall confidence improved again, to 95.21, although this is still below the long-term neutral score of 100 which we fell below in 2014.

FCI-Jun-2016Despite Brexit, the indecisive election result, and stock market volatility, the average financial confidence all household split by property segments improved, with property active owner occupied households now above neutral, thanks to ever lower mortgage interest rates, and positive news on home prices in the major states of NSW and VIC. Property inactive households were a little more positive too, thanks to rental increases being contained and food costs down a little. Property investors are also positive, thanks to lower interest rates, and better access to mortgage funds at good prices. Intention to purchase property has improved, thanks to continued capital gains, lower mortgage funding costs and net perceived better returns than stocks or deposits.  Future price growth expectations also rose.

FCI-Jun-2016---PtyThe state variations are quite stark however, with NSW and VIC improving strongly, whilst WA languishes, thanks to flatter home prices, and rising unemployment. Variations across the regions were even more extreme.

FCI-Jun-2016--StatesIncome, in real terms, continues to fall for many.  Those reliant on interest from bank deposits were hardest hit, with average rates for many falling. Further drops in returns on deposits will force many to consider alternatives, including property.

FCI-Jun-2016-Income By way of background, these results are derived from our household surveys, averaged across Australia. We have 26,000 households in our sample at any one time. We include detailed questions covering various aspects of a household’s financial footprint. The index measures how households are feeling about their financial health. To calculate the index we ask questions which cover a number of different dimensions. We start by asking households how confident they are feeling about their job security, whether their real income has risen or fallen in the past year, their view on their costs of living over the same period, whether they have increased their loans and other outstanding debts including credit cards and whether they are saving more than last year. Finally we ask about their overall change in net worth over the past 12 months – by net worth we mean net assets less outstanding debts.

Household Financial Security Index Rises, Significantly

The latest edition of the Digital Finance Analytics Household Financial Security Confidence Index (FCI) is released today, to end May 2016. It shows a significant rise in overall confidence levels, up from 89.2, to 94.7 although this is still below the neutral score of 100, which we fell below in 2014.

FCI-May-2016-FCIA number of elements explain the improvement. Looking first at the index by property segment, we see that the property active investor’s score continue to improve, thanks to rising home prices, the likely negation of changes to negative gearing post the election, and falling interest rates on loans. This reflects the heightened demand we identified in our last set of survey results.  The owner occupied home owners score also bounced back, thanks to the cash rate interest rate cut in May feeding through into prospective lower mortgage repayments. Even property inactive households were more confident, and this is associated with recent more positive economic news, and lower rental rates. This break-out trajectory suggests we could be above the long term neutral position soon.

FCI-May-2016-PropertyThis video blog goes though the main points:

But, then again, within the index, we see some more concerning signs. First, stagnant incomes are confirmed, with almost no households reporting real income growth, and around 45% saying their real incomes have fallen.

FCI-May-2016---Income We also noted concerns about the level of income from bank deposits as rates fall, and banks try to manage their net interest margin. I am surprise there is so little coverage of the real impact of falling interest rates on those relying on savings, despite the large number of households which are impacted; all the focus is on property and shares. This fall in rates proportionally impacts more older households.

We also see rising child care costs hitting large numbers of younger households as the latest changes work through.

Finally, we see that households in regional WA and QLD are significantly less confident thanks to pressure on home prices and higher levels of mortgage stress, whereas in NSW and VIC households are relatively more confident. Here they are close to crossing the 100 point Rubicon.

By way of background, these results are derived from our household surveys, averaged across Australia. We have 26,000 households in our sample at any one time. We include detailed questions covering various aspects of a household’s financial footprint. The index measures how households are feeling about their financial health. To calculate the index we ask questions which cover a number of different dimensions. We start by asking households how confident they are feeling about their job security, whether their real income has risen or fallen in the past year, their view on their costs of living over the same period, whether they have increased their loans and other outstanding debts including credit cards and whether they are saving more than last year. Finally we ask about their overall change in net worth over the past 12 months – by net worth we mean net assets less outstanding debts.

Property Investor Confidence Lifts

The latest edition of the Digital Finance Analytics Household Finance Security Index, to end April, released today, shows a lift from 88.14 to 89.20. This is still below the long term neutral score of 100, but is the highest score so far this year.

FCI-APril-2016Of note is the significant spike from 89.67 to 92.45 in confidence among property investors, thanks to the Government stance on negative gearing, the expectation of interest rate cuts, and better news on home price growth. Investor households in NSW and VIC improved the most. Property active owner occupied households saw a small lift from 95.43 to 95.93, thanks to the expectation of lower mortgage rates (though offset by lower returns from those with deposits). Improved stock marker performance assisted. Once again, stronger positive scores in NSW and VIC were somewhat offset by noticeably weaker scores in WA and QLD.

Overall costs of living were flat. We saw a further fall in those who had received a pay rise whilst those with property on average saw their net worth rise again.

There was a noticeable fall in those households who are not property active – either renting or living with family or friends. On average their score fell again, from 84.3 to 83.5. These households are more exposed to costs of living (including rising rentals), have no leverage to the rising property market and are more stressed financially than property holding segments. Around one third of households fall into this group.

By way of background, these results are derived from our household surveys, averaged across Australia. We have 26,000 households in our sample at any one time. We include detailed questions covering various aspects of a household’s financial footprint. The index measures how households are feeling about their financial health. To calculate the index we ask questions which cover a number of different dimensions. We start by asking households how confident they are feeling about their job security, whether their real income has risen or fallen in the past year, their view on their costs of living over the same period, whether they have increased their loans and other outstanding debts including credit cards and whether they are saving more than last year. Finally we ask about their overall change in net worth over the past 12 months – by net worth we mean net assets less outstanding debts.

Household Finance Confidence Falls Again In February

The February edition of the Digital Finance Analytics Household Finance Confidence Index, released today, fell from 89.24 to 88.11, and remains below a neutral setting.

FCi-Feb-2016-IndexA range of factors have led to this latest fall.

Savings was one area of concern, because with stronger concerns about the property sector, and volatile stock markets, more households are wanting to hold money on deposit. 11% feel more comfortable than 12 months ago, 31% less conformable, and 52% about the same. The research shows that many households are concerned about the best investment path, and some are expecting savings rates to fall further. We also saw that about one quarter of households would have difficulty in accessing savings of $2,500 in an emergency, so savings balances are highly segment specific. Deposit rates have also improved recently for some.

On the debt front, 8% of households feel more comfortable than a year back, down 2.5%, whilst 27% are less comfortable, (up 1.8%). 62% felt about the same. Mortgages remain the major burden, whilst more are looking to pay down credit card debt. Significantly a rising number of households indicated they were considering paying down debt (rather than keeping funds in a low yielding deposit account). Perhaps the era of deleveraging is starting? Whilst new borrowing for property purchase is somewhat down, refinancing to reduce existing repayments has increased. There was a significant rise in households whose loan application was refused on serviceability grounds.

Turning to real income (after inflation), only 1.2% of households said their income had risen (down 1%), whilst 44% said their real incomes had fallen in the past year (consistent with recent RBA data showing no per capita growth since 2008).  More than half said they had experienced no change in real income. Those relying on investments for incomes were most concerned. The lack of income growth constrains household spending and will reduce their ability to deleverage.

Looking at costs of living, 37% said their costs had risen in the past year, 2% said costs have fallen, and 59% said there was little net change, thanks to continued lower fuel and interest costs offsetting other rising costs. School fees and childcare costs, and health insurance costs all rose.

On a positive note, more households are confident of their employment now, with 14.14% feeling more secure than 12 months ago, up from last month, whilst 20% were feeling less secure (but down 1.73%). The majority said there has been no change (62.2%).

Summing up, household net worth is now under more pressure, with 51% said it had risen (down 4%), 15% saying net worth was lower (up 2.8%), and 26% saying there was no change. The value of some share market investments are being trimmed. We are also seeing some signs of property values falling in some places. For example, property in areas of Kalgoorlie (WA) have fallen 25% in the past year, some areas around Mackay and Fitzroy (QLD)  have fallen 20%, and in SA areas around Eyre dropped 6%. Not all property markets across Australia have performed equally well.  These factors feed into the falls in net worth.

Finally, looking at a property segmented view of the index, we see that all segments recorded a fall this month, with property active owner occupied households more positive than property investors, and property inactive households (in rentals or other living arrangements) scoring the most negative results. Factors such as prospective tax changes in the budget, general political uncertainty, and the broader economic environment are all playing on households, feeding through into ongoing negativity. Significantly, the boost we saw following the change in PM has now dissipated completely.

FCI-Index-Feb-2016---Pty By way of background, these results are derived from our household surveys, averaged across Australia. We have 26,000 households in our sample at any one time. We include detailed questions covering various aspects of a household’s financial footprint. The index measures how households are feeling about their financial health. To calculate the index we ask questions which cover a number of different dimensions. We start by asking households how confident they are feeling about their job security, whether their real income has risen or fallen in the past year, their view on their costs of living over the same period, whether they have increased their loans and other outstanding debts including credit cards and whether they are saving more than last year. Finally we ask about their overall change in net worth over the past 12 months – by net worth we mean net assets less outstanding debts.