Composite image of Australia's big four banks (file image)
New home loan values have continued to rise, but at a slower rate, the ABS says. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • economy, business and finance

‘Softer’ year ahead as spending and loan growth slow

Kat Wong January 12, 2024

The economy appears to be softening ahead of the Reserve Bank’s first rates announcement of the year as growth in spending and home loan values decelerates.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ lending data released on Friday shows the value of new loans has continued to rise, but at a slower rate.

NAB economists say this “plays to the view of financial conditions not being especially restrictive from the perspective of new lending demand”.

“In terms of flow through to the broader economy, housing momentum – if sustained – would act to support consumer spending in 2024, adding to notions of a soft landing,” they said.

The Perth suburb of Morley (file image)
 House prices are likely to remain high factoring in population growth, an economist says. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS 

The value of new housing loan commitments rose one per cent in November, after a 7.1 per cent surge in October, and was 13.1 per cent higher than a year ago.

Loans for people who own and live in their own home rose 10.1 per cent through the year to November.

The number of refinanced owner-occupier loan commitments rose 4.2 per cent, putting the figure at a level similar to March 2022 before the Reserve Bank embarked on its cash rate rises. 

CommSec economist Craig James said higher home prices and already high interest rates were encouraging homeowners to stay put and update their homes rather than moving.

The data also highlights the ongoing strength in a housing market underpinned by a supply shortage and strong population growth.

“While borrowing costs have lifted and financial conditions have tightened, we still believe that high net overseas migration and only a slow increase in the housing stock implies that home prices will remain supported, as will demand for home loans,” Mr James said.

The bureau’s monthly household data, also released on Friday, found household spending in November was 3.1 per cent higher than the year before, driven by increased spending on essentials.

Non-discretionary spending rose 5.8 per cent year-on-year with spending on transport and health up by 8.3 per cent and 7.8 per cent respectively.

Black Friday played a big role with households spending 0.3 per cent more on discretionary goods and services than in November 2022.

However, spending on clothing and footwear fell 0.1 per cent while purchases of furnishings and household equipment jumped 1.7 per cent.

Despite the increase in household spending its rate of growth has generally decelerated, with September showing a 4.3 per cent jump compared with 2022, down from August’s 5.3 per cent boost over the previous year. 

This comes after the ABS on Wednesday revealed the November consumer price index was at 4.3 per cent, its lowest since January 2022, which has led many economists to tip the central bank will keep the cash rate on hold in February.