Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Household Debt-to-Income improves - South Africa

Debt-to-disposable income has decreased in the second quarter, causing debt service risk to decline further from 6.18 to 6.10 according to the FNB Household Debt-Service Risk Index.

John Loos, FNB Home Loans Strategist, said that this decline implied a decline in the household sector's vulnerability to any unwanted events such as interest rate hiking or economic growth slowdown, which could impair its ability to service its debt at some future stage.

He said that the index takes into account the level of household indebtedness, as expressed by the household debt-to-disposable income ratio, the direction in which this ratio is moving (currently downward), and the level of interest rates (prime rate) relative to long term consumer price inflation (5-year average inflation).

The lower the debt-to-disposable income ratio goes, the lower the risk, and downward momentum in the debt ratio thus also exerts downward pressure on the overall Debt-Service Risk Index.

The decline in the ratio has been brought about by slow single-digit growth in the value of household sector credit in recent years, enabling nominal disposable income growth to outgrow the pace of credit growth according to Loos.

He said the pace of decline had been slow going, however, as disposable income growth since the recession in 2008 had also remained slow compared to the pre-recession boom years. Nevertheless, the second quarter did show some further rise in year-on-year disposable income growth from 8.9% in the first quarter to 9.9%. This, along with a slowing household credit growth from 6.8% in the first quarter to 6.4% in the second quarter, resulted in further reduction in the debt-to-disposable income ratio.

Loos said that reducing the debt-to-disposable income ratio further looked set to continue to be challenging, because the renewed economic slowdown of late looked set to see slowing disposable income growth in coming quarters.

"However, we believe that the downward trend will continue at a gradual pace due to simultaneous slowing in household credit growth, reaching a level below 70% during 2013," Loos said.

He said that on the other hand, the lower interest rates get, relative to long term average inflation, the higher the risk for the household sector becomes, because this implies a diminishing probability of further interest rate cuts and an increasing probability that future interest rate moves could be up.

Therefore, Loos continued, a slight rise in the five-year average inflation rate in the second quarter, brought about by a recent rise in consumer price inflation, had exerted slight upward pressure on the overall index. However, against this, a further decline in the household sector debt-to-disposable income ratio, from the previous quarter's 76.8%, to 75.9% in the second quarter, had offset increased interest rate risk and caused the Household Sector Debt-Service Risk Index to decline further in the second quarter.

This level of debt-service risk, however, remains high by historic standards, with the long term average since 1970 being 5.1 according to Loos. Further significant reduction in the debt-to-disposable income ratio would thus appear essential. The lowest level of 2.74 was achieved in the final quarter of 1998, and it was this low level that preceded the start of one of the country's great consumer and home buying booms. - I-Net Bridge

No comments: