Consumer credit demand was at its strongest since the global financial crisis during the March quarter, but fading confidence levels suggest this expansion may be difficult to sustain.
Credit data provider Veda said credit demand in terms of volume for credit cards and personal loans was the strongest since June 2008 at the start of this year, to be 3.1 per cent higher than a year earlier.
Veda’s general manager of consumer risk Angus Luffman said credit inquiries in January and February are typically healthy after Christmas spending, but there was a definite slowing in March.
“This aligned with movements in consumer sentiment indices over the quarter and would indicate the outlook for the June quarter is not as strong as we’ve seen more recently,” he said releasing the data on Wednesday.
Credit card applications were 6.4 per cent in the March quarter compared with a year earlier, posting the fourth consecutive quarter of growth after two years of weakness, and buoyed by increased marketing activity by major lenders.
While demand for personal loans rose by a slim 0.1 per cent over the same period, it comes after two and a half years of sustained growth.
“These have held up well in recent quarters, despite the fact that one of the key drivers of growth, new car sales, is presently declining,” Mr Luffman said.
Low interest rates continue to power the recovery in the housing market, keeping mortgage demand at double-digit growth rates.
In the year to March mortgage growth was 10.8 per cent, cooling slightly from the 14.8 per cent as of the December quarter, with all states reporting slower growth apart from the Northern Territory and Tasmania.
Trends in mortgage applications have a track record of predicting movements in house prices.
Notably mortgage applications in Western Australia grew by just 1.1 per cent in the March quarter after 11.2 per cent growth as of the previous quarter, “which may be an early sign that the Perth housing market is set to cool in the months ahead”, Mr Luffman said.