Westpac has become the last big four bank to announce it will pass on the Reserve Bank’s latest hike in the official cash rate, joining Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, National Australia Bank and Macquarie Bank.
As widely expected, the RBA on Tuesday increased rates by 50 basis points to 1.35 per cent.
It was an unprecedented third consecutive increase at that level, and came after a 25 basis-point rise in May and a further 50 basis-point increase in June as the central bank tries to ward off rampant inflation that is currently running at 5.1 per cent.
Governor Philip Lowe has warned homeowners to expect more rates pain with forecasts inflation could hit 7 per cent later this year.
CBA on Wednesday said it would again pass on the full increase to its customers, with its variable rate for owner-occupiers now increased to 5.80 per cent. Investor variable rates will rise to 6.38 per cent. Interest-only rates for both owner-occupiers and investors now sit above 6.29 per cent.
But in good news for depositors, the full increase has also been applied to the bank’s GoalSaver and YouthSaver accounts.
The new rates will take effect from July 15.
Group executive, retail banking Angus Sullivan acknowledged some mortgage customers would feel the strain of a third-straight month of higher repayments.
“We understand the rapidly changing rate environment may raise questions for some of our customers and we are here to help them,” Mr Sullivan said. “We encourage our customers to message us in the CommBank app to explore different support options or to connect with a home lending specialist.”
ANZ said it would also pass on the full rate increase to borrowers, also effective from July 15. Some savings accounts would also rise by 0.5 percentage points.
“In making its decision today, ANZ considered various factors including the change in the official cash rate, the impact on customers, business performance and competition,” the bank said.
Group executive Australia retail Maile Carnegie said the bank helped nearly 100,000 customers manage their home loans through the pandemic and it would continue to support those feeling the strain of the rising cost of living.
National Australia Bank has confirmed it will increase its standard variable home loan interest rate by 0.5 per cent from 15 July.
NAB’s Reward Saver account will lift by 0.5 per cent, while its 12-month Term Deposit account will increase to 2.5 per cent.
Macquarie Bank also lifted its rates.
Westpac followed suit on Wednesday afternoon, confirming it would increase home loan variable interest rates by 0.5 per cent for new and existing customers from 20 July.
The increase will mean existing mortgage holders with a $500,000 loan and 25 years remaining will pay an extra $137 a month, according to calculations by Rate City — bringing to $333 the monthly increase since rates began moving higher in May.
For those with 25 years remaining on a $750,000 loan, the figure rises to $205 a month — $499 more since May.
But Goldman Sachs’ Australia and New Zealand chief economist Andrew Boak believes households can sustain materially higher interest rates this year after shrinking their net debt sharply since the global financial crisis.
“It’s a very unusual situation, where at the moment financial buffers are very, very large and unprecedentedly large,” Mr Boak said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
He cited an RBA measure of household debt minus savings and deposits, that’s fallen to about 75 per cent of disposable income from more than 100 per cent during the 2008-09 crisis.
Mr Boak forecasts the central bank’s terminal rate level at 3.1 per cent — a level where he says Australians’ debt servicing capability still doesn’t become “prohibitively restrictive”.
His faith in households contrasts with ANZ data out on Tuesday showing a drop in consumer confidence, driven by respondents saying it’s a bad time to buy a major household item. The reading follows a weakening in sentiment across other similar gauges since May.
Compare the Market spokesman David Ruddiman agreed households had capacity to service higher repayments but argued the RBA’s increase was “inadequate given the circumstances”.
“Our cash rate of 1.35 per cent is still too low given inflation is sitting at 5.1 per cent and is heading toward a peak of around 7 per cent before the end of the year,” Mr Ruddiman said.
It’s a very unusual situation, where at the moment financial buffers are very, very large and unprecedentedly large.
“This really means the cash rate needs to climb above 3.5 per cent and stay there for a sustained period to bring inflation back to the Reserve Bank’s target.
“This is not the end of rising rates. There’s more pain to come for Australian households with a real likelihood of an additional 50-basis-point hike in August.”
He believes the current hiking cycle will shift rates near 5.5 per cent in a little over a year.
“While households that have a decent buffer should be able to ride out these rate rises, those finding it more challenging to balance the monthly household budget, particularly those on a variable mortgage rate, should start preparing themselves now by reviewing your household bills to see where you can make cutbacks, or potentially switch to a more competitive deal,” he said.