The Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) decisions to decrease interest rates over the last few months were welcomed by borrowers and lenders alike, most recently with the 0.75% cut in October and the 1% cut in September.
The reality is, however, that most of Australia’s lending institutions have chosen not to pass on the full cuts, citing the increases in their funding costs.
This has left a gap between the fall in official interest rates and the rate reductions for a standard variable mortgage by most banks. The banks obviously have responsibilities to their shareholders, but the simple fact is that the RBA did not make these cuts out of a flight of fancy. The cuts were made with the intent that the banks would pass on the full rate decrease.
As the Acting President of the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), Chris Fitzpatrick recently stated:
‘The banks really need to think about their corporate responsibility to their customers and pass the entire rate cut to where it is needed and where the RBA have intended the cuts to go, the people. The RBA does not cut interest rates without reason, they are doing what they see fit to take the financial pressure off households around Australia and to stabilize the economy while keeping inflation in check.’
Obviously, the increase in the banks “bad debts” have not helped, with exposure to companies such as the Lehman Brothers, Allco Finance Group, ABC Learning weighing them down. Bloomberg report that Bad debts jumped to A$930 million in fiscal 2008 from A$496 million a year earlier. Bad debts as a proportion of loans increased to 0.26 percent from 0.14 percent a year ago. Australian banks have investments totaling A$7.4 billion in troubled companies and it is predicted that Australia’s four biggest banks will record about A$7 billion in bad debts this year.
Quite simply, however, it is in the long-term interests of lending institutions that homeownership is affordable and an attractive investment option. The will have a positive effect on the overall Australian economy, which is something that right now is what everyone is looking for. Simon Turner