Private sector credit up in January
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Credit growth continued in January, but the modest gain offered no evidence of an acceleration that might make the Reserve Bank of Australia more cautious about raising interest rates.
The value of credit provided to the private sector rose by 0.2 per cent in January, after the 0.4 per cent gain in December that made up for November's unchanged result.
The seasonally adjusted figures were reported by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) on Thursday.
Annual growth remained at 3.6 per cent, little changed from the 3.5 per cent rise over the year to January 2012 and the 3.2 per cent gain over the year before that.
The slowdown in monthly credit growth in January compared with December was due mainly to the more volatile business category, where credit growth stalled after a 0.7 per cent bounce back in December from a similar-sized fall in November.
Business credit growth was up by 2.8 per cent through the year to January, but all of that weak rise was seen over the first half of the year - the level of business credit provision in January was actually marginally lower than six months earlier.
Housing credit rose by 0.4 per cent, continuing a succession of plodding gains.
Annual growth in housing credit wound down from 4.5 per cent to 4.4 per cent, the slowest annual rise in the data series that goes back to 1976.
There are some signs that interest rate cuts by the RBA since late 2011 are having some effect.
They include the fourth consecutive monthly gain in new home sales reported by the Housing Industry Association on Thursday, and recent signs of rising home prices.
But the RBA credit figures confirm that there is no sign of the credit binge central banks have come to recognise as the toxic side-effect of the low interest rates used to stimulate economic growth.
Business investment projections released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday suggest mining investment will not peak in 2012/13 but instead rise further in 2013/14.
That news has probably killed off any realistic chance of an interest rate cut from the RBA when its board meets on Tuesday next week.
But, if worse comes to worst and the RBA sees the need for a cut in the coming few months, the soft credit figures would give it some confidence that runaway credit growth is not an immediate risk.
Garry Shilson-Josling, AAP Economist