The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has just released housing finance data for the month of February, which registered a seasonally-adjusted 2.0% increase in the number of owner-occupied finance commitments over the month. It was the first increase in owner-occupied commitments for five months and beast analyst’s expectations of a 1.5% rise. January’s results were also revised upwards slightly.
Arguably, the most important figure in the release is the number of owner-occupied housing finance commitments excluding refinancings, which registered a seasonally-adjusted 2.0% increase over the month of February, but remained some -5% below the five-year moving average level.
The series was also up 6.8% on February 2012, but below the levels of mid-to-late 2012 (see next chart).
First home buyer (FHB) commitments recovered slightly, recording a 2% non-seasonally adjusted gain in February (see next chart), but represented just 14.4% of total owner-occupied commitments, which was the lowest level since July 2004.
Unfortunately, the ABS only provides the value of investor finance commitments. These were up by 2% in February, by 15% over the year, and were at the highest level since February 2008, suggesting that investors are driving the lion’s share of the growth in housing demand and prices at present (see next chart).
Overall, it’s a decent result that reversed some of the weakness experienced in the owner-occupied segment, and solidifies the run of gains in the investor segment. That said, mortgage demand remains weak amongst FHBs, which could weigh on the overall housing market later this year.