The banking sector is experiencing a slowdown in growth and inflation, with the banks reporting weaker lending, lower lending rates and higher loan costs.
In a recent report from the Australian National Bank (ANB), the Australian Bankers Association (ABA) and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) said “further easing of monetary policy, lower borrowing costs, and a slower pace of economic growth may provide some breathing space for banks”.
The banks reported that lending to businesses and households slowed from September to December, and their growth rate dropped from 5.9 per cent to 4.6 per cent.
“This trend is expected to continue, with banks reporting lower lending levels than last quarter and the impact of a lower interest rate environment on the bank balance sheet,” the report said.
The ABA said the Bank of England’s “quantitative easing” had helped the sector but the recovery has been slower than expected, with lending rates on credit cards down 1.1 percentage points in the quarter.
The RBA also cut its forecast for economic growth for the full year to 3.4 per cent from 4 per cent, while the ABS said the banking sector was expected to be a drag on growth.
“The Bank of Japan is likely to further tighten monetary policy at its next meeting on August 23,” the ANA said in a report.
“If this occurs, the impact on economic growth will be substantial, as it will reduce the pace of growth.”
The RBC said it was not forecasting a change in its forecast, as the economy was “continuing to recover” from the financial crisis.
“However, it is important to note that while the recent recovery is continuing, there remains a risk that the current trend will continue, particularly in the banking and credit sectors,” it said.
ABA chief economist Stephen Wright said the banks were now experiencing “weakness in both lending and growth”.
“In the context of the overall economic recovery, there is no sign that the banks’ balance sheet is in a position to absorb a significant reduction in lending,” he said.
“We continue to see signs that the economic environment is deteriorating, with slowing growth and rising unemployment, and an increasing likelihood that the economy will continue to lag behind in the pace at which growth can occur.”