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Banks cash in on buoyant property and jobs market

Banks cash in on buoyant property and jobs market

Storey said that while NAB, ANZ and Westpac’s large full-year profit results might attract scrutiny, as CBA’s result did in August, the banks were likely to point to their wider economic contribution.

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“Australian banks in particular operate with a certain social licence,” he said. “I probably do expect them to come under a bit of scrutiny.”

Jefferies analyst Matt Wilson said that while 2023 had been a better year than feared for banks, he believed the industry was going through deep-seated changes that were likely to make conditions tougher in the future. One such change was the move away from the era of low interest rates.

“I still think the biggest issue confronting our economy is rates will be higher longer because inflation will be stickier than people expect,” Wilson said. “And because rates will be higher for longer, that may cause a credit cycle.”

Another change, he said, was a shift towards greater competition for deposits and loans, as Westpac in particular tried to make up for past losses in market share.

“An oligopoly works when market share is relatively stable. It’s a long time since we’ve seen competition on both sides of the balance sheet,” he said.

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Figures from the banking regulator on Friday showed Westpac had the fastest growth of the big four in mortgages and deposits in August, and that housing credit grew at 4.3 per cent in the previous year.

Jarden analyst Carlos Cacho said banks still faced a challenging outlook as they managed rising costs, and the market was focused on how competition was affecting margins. He said the market had gradually become more confident in a soft landing for the economy.

“I think in general we’ve seen the economy hold up better than feared, so there’s more confidence that we are probably not going to get the bad debt cycle the market was concerned about,” he said.

NAB chief executive Ross McEwan recently said Australia would avoid falling into recession, while Westpac chief Peter King told The Australian Financial Review a soft landing looked “quite plausible”.

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