ANZ boss Shayne Elliott says it isn’t his job to predict the Reserve Bank’s next move on rates, but says a cut could help the growing number of customers struggling to repay their mortgage.
The number of ANZ customers behind on their home loan repayments has risen, albeit from a low base, over the first half of the bank’s financial year and the lender has found it hard to get a true picture of some financial situations.
Mr Elliott says falling house prices and stubbornly low wage growth are putting pressure on some borrowers, adding that he believes the argument for a cut to the cash rate was sound.
“Low inflation suggests maybe a rate cut would be a good thing … It would put a bit of money back into people’s pockets,” he said while announcing ANZ’s first-half results on Wednesday.
“Those people who are behind on their mortgage could make more repayments.”
ANZ said five per cent of its home loans were in negative equity as at March 31, while UBS analysts were concerned by a rise in mortgages 30 days overdue to 2.25 per cent – from 1.8 per cent six months earlier.
The proportion of home loan customers more than 90 days in arrears also edged higher.
Mr Elliott said he expected the trend to continue, with wage stagnation playing a leading role.
“When a lot of people take out a loan, they generally make assumptions about their future wage growth,” he said.
“But for many people wage growth isn’t happening … they’re not getting what they thought they would be. I don’t see that changing any time soon.”
He said falling house prices and a more difficult selling environment also contributed to an increase in short-term bad debts.
“A lot of people get behind for a month or two then sort themselves out,” he said.
“They sort their expenses, cut back … they sell their house and go somewhere smaller. That today is taking a lot longer.”
Calls for the central bank to cut the cash rate at its May 7 meeting have increased after weak inflation figures offset a rise in full-time employment in March.
The futures market had already priced in at least one rate cut before the end of 2019, with many economists predicting two 0.25 percentage point cuts.