Australian mortgage arrears are expected to increase nationwide in coming months as rising unemployment flows through onto debt serviceability.
Standard & Poor Global Ratings says the hit of Covid-19 will be further revealed in the fourth quarter of 2020, with mortgage arrear rises more likely to be more pronounced in Victoria and areas where tourism is a major employer.
The credit rating agency forecasts that property prices could fall 10 per cent from the onset of the pandemic, and that arrears are likely to vary by state and territory, reflecting different economic recovery paths.
“We expect arrears to begin surfacing in the second half of 2020, and losses to emerge in 2021,” S&P analyst Erin Kitson said.
“Strong growth in property prices could return, underpinned by increased demand when international borders reopen, low-interest rates and potential supply shortages.”
Capital Economics this week maintained its own forecast that house prices across the eight capital cities will eventually fall by 8 per cent from their peak, due to expected rising unemployment and weaker consumer confidence.
Weighing in, AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver advised home prices could fall by around 10 per cent to 15 per cent from the April high.
|Area||State||Exposure total RMBS||Exposure COVID-19 loans||Proportional increase|
|Sydney - Inner South West||NSW||3.31%||4.37%||32%|
|Melbourne - South East||VIC||2.5%||3.21%||28%|
|Melbourne - North East||VIC||2.5%||3.25%||30%|
|Melbourne - North West||VIC||1.3%||1.65%||27%|
|Sydney - Outer South West||NSW||1.03%||1.25%||21%|
|Richmond - Tweed||NSW||0.97%||1.33%||37%|
|Sydney - South West||NSW||0.89%||1.31%||47%|
^ Data as at June. 30, 2020. Residential mortgage-backed securities. Source: S&P Global Ratings.
Fiscal stimulus measures are helping many borrowers whose income has been impacted by the pandemic.
S&P says mortgage payment deferrals are masking Covid-19’s true effect on arrears.
“This is because most lenders are not including loans under Covid-19 hardship arrangements in their traditional arrears reporting during mortgage-relief periods.”
New South Wales has managed to keep its economy open, for the most part, and stayed on top of localised virus clusters.
S&P says managing this will be crucial in keeping the economy open, preserving jobs and restoring the state’s strong arrears track record.
Victoria’s stage four lockdown will restrict its path to economic recovery, affecting employment, housing markets, and debt serviceability.
S&P says the state is likely to see the largest increase in mortgage arrears above pre-Covid-19 levels.
Arrears were already higher in Queensland, which S&P attributes to its exposure to mining and drought-affected regions.
“With the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism hotspots are struggling from the closure of international and some state borders.
“Tourist towns have a disproportionate share of loans under Covid-19 hardship arrangements and will likely see higher arrears in the months ahead,” Kitson said.
Western Australia has had the nation’s highest arrears for a number of years due to pressures since the end of the mining boom, S&P says.
“Covid-19’s economic effect is unlikely to be as negative as other parts of the country, given its good progress on containing the virus and the strong demand for iron ore. Longer-dated arrears meanwhile will still weigh on overall arrears performance.”
|State||Suburb and Postcode||Loans in arrears||Loan count|
|NSW||Chester Hill 2162||4.91%||327|
|VIC||South Melbourne 3205||4.68%||330|
^ Source: S&P Global Ratings. Data as of June 30, 2020
Australia's four major banks—ANZ, CBA, NAB, and Westpac— reported increases in non-performing ratios, highlighting the impact of Covid-19 on asset quality.
“Deterioration of asset quality and profitability will weigh on capital,” Moody’s Investors Service vice president Daniel Yu said.
Covid-19 hardship arrangements and concessions peaked in June.
S&P says several lenders reported falls in July when most parts of Australia reopened their economies.
Figures released Wednesday revealed gross domestic product fell by 7 per cent in the June quarter, the largest quarterly fall in GDP on record, and a bigger drop than the 6 per cent fall the market had forecast.
Household consumption dropped 12.1 per cent in the quarter. The fall in consumption, which makes up around 60 per cent of GDP, was led by a 17.6 per cent fall in spending on services for the quarter due to restrictions in place to contain the spread of Covid-19.