An interest rate pause, but the pain may not be over yet
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An interest rate pause, but the pain may not be over yet

Borrowers may need to dig deep before the year is out

By KANEBRIDGE NEWS
Wed, Jul 5, 2023 9:53amGrey Clock 2 min

The prospect of another interest rate hike rests on the outcome of the June quarter inflation figures, research director at property data analysts CoreLogic said.

CoreLogic’s Tim Lawless said while yesterday’s decision by the RBA Board to keep interest rates on hold was welcome news for mortgage holders, it was not an indication that rates had peaked.

“The June quarter inflation outcome, to be released late this month, will be critical in determining whether there are more rate hikes ahead,” he said.

Although most economists expected the RBA Board to increase the cash rate by another 25 basis points yesterday, governor Philip Lowe said the board recognised the need for a pause as the full impact of a four per cent rise in rates since May last year fully played out. 

However, another rate rise is clearly still on the table.

“Inflation in Australia has passed its peak and the monthly CPI indicator for May showed a further decline,” Mr Lowe said. “But inflation is still too high and will remain so for some time yet.

“And if high inflation were to become entrenched in people’s expectations, it would be very costly to reduce later, involving even higher interest rates and a larger rise in unemployment. For these reasons, the Board’s priority is to return inflation to target within a reasonable timeframe.”

Navigating a pathway through managing inflation via additional rate rises without further limiting access to credit will be tricky, Mr Lawless said. At the same time, higher cost of living was having a negative impact on consumer confidence.

“Currently high interest rates and the potential for a hike in August could weigh further on consumer sentiment, which is already around GFC lows,” he said. “Historically consumer sentiment and housing market sales have been closely correlated.

“The combination of high cost of living pressures, negative real income growth and the high cost of debt have made it hard for borrowers to obtain credit approval, especially with lenders less willing to lend on high debt-to-income ratios, high loan-to-income ratios or on smaller deposits.”

He said the current level of interest rates would most likely expose more borrowers to mortgage arrears in the coming months, although it may not be as severe as some predicted.

“To date, the majority of borrowers have kept on track with their mortgage repayments, with APRA data for the March quarter indicating only half a percent of home loan borrows had fallen less than 90 days behind on their mortgage repayments,” Mr Lawless said.  

“While the portion of borrowers falling behind on their repayment schedule is likely to rise, Australia’s unemployment rate is forecast to remain below 5 percent, which should help to prevent a material blowout in mortgage arrears.”



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Hong Kong Takes Drastic Action to Avert Property Slump

The city’s real-estate market has been hurt by high interest rates and mainland China’s economic slowdown

By ELAINE YU
Fri, Mar 1, 2024 3 min

Hong Kong has taken a bold step to ease a real-estate slump, scrapping a series of property taxes in an effort to turn around a market that is often seen as a proxy for the city’s beleaguered economy.

The government has removed longstanding property taxes that were imposed on nonpermanent residents, those buying a second home, or people reselling a property within two years after buying, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in his annual budget speech on Wednesday.

The move is an attempt to revive a property market that is still one of the most expensive in the world, but that has been badly shaken by social unrest, the fallout of the government’s strict approach to containing Covid-19 and the slowdown of China’s economy . Hong Kong’s high interest rates, which track U.S. rates due to its currency peg,  have increased the pressure .

The decision to ease the tax burden could encourage more buying from people in mainland China, who have been a driving force in Hong Kong’s property market for years. Chinese tycoons, squeezed by problems at home, have  in some cases become forced sellers  of Hong Kong real estate—dealing major damage to the luxury segment.

Hong Kong’s super luxury homes  have lost more than a quarter of their value  since the middle of 2022.

The additional taxes were introduced in a series of announcements starting in 2010, when the government was focused on cooling down soaring home prices that had made Hong Kong one of the world’s least affordable property markets. They are all in the form of stamp duty, a tax imposed on property sales.

“The relevant measures are no longer necessary amidst the current economic and market conditions,” Chan said.

The tax cuts will lead to more buying and support prices in the coming months, said Eddie Kwok, senior director of valuation and advisory services at CBRE Hong Kong, a property consultant. But in the longer term, the market will remain sensitive to the level of interest rates and developers may still need to lower their prices to attract demand thanks to a stockpile of new homes, he said.

Hong Kong’s authorities had already relaxed rules last year to help revive the market, allowing home buyers to pay less upfront when buying certain properties, and cutting by half the taxes for those buying a second property and for home purchases by foreigners. By the end of 2023, the price index for private homes reached a seven-year low, according to Hong Kong’s Rating and Valuation Department.

The city’s monetary authority relaxed mortgage rules further on Wednesday, allowing potential buyers to borrow more for homes valued at around $4 million.

The shares of Hong Kong’s property developers jumped after the announcement, defying a selloff in the wider market. New World Development , Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development were higher in afternoon trading, clawing back some of their losses from a slide in their stock prices this year.

The city’s budget deficit will widen to about $13 billion in the coming fiscal year, which starts on April 1. That is larger than expected, Chan said. Revenues from land sales and leases, an important source of government income, will fall to about $2.5 billion, about $8.4 billion lower than the original estimate and far lower than the previous year, according to Chan.

The sweeping property measures are part of broader plans by Hong Kong’s government to prop up the city amid competition from Singapore and elsewhere. Stringent pandemic controls and anxieties about Beijing’s political crackdown led to  an exodus of local residents and foreigners  from the Asian financial centre.

But tens of thousands of Chinese nationals have arrived in the past year, the result of Hong Kong  rolling out new visa rules aimed at luring talent in 2022.

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