More signs today of an easing in private credit, although there’s a sense the slowdown is steadying around current levels.

The Reserve Bank said today that total credit provided to the private sector by financial intermediaries rose by 0.7% in September 2008, following a rise of 0.5% in August. That gave a growth rate of of 10.1% in the year to September, against a 10.5% growth rate in the year to August and 11.3% in the year to August.

The 0.7% rise was the biggest since the 0.9% rise in March, but the annual rate is still at levels not seen for over a decade.

There was a slight rise in the month of 0.6% in housing credit (compared with 0.5% in both August and July), but the annual growth rate fell to a near recession like 9.2%,a against 9.4% annual in August and 9.8% in July.

The annual growth in credit for owner occupiers fell below 10%, to 9.9%, even though it picked up in the month to 0.6% from 0.4% in August. Investor credit fell to an annual rate of 7.9% for the year to September from 8.1%.

Personal credit fell for a fourth straight month as margin calls cut the level of revolving credit. personal credit fell 0.3% in September after a 0.4% slide in August. The annual growth rate in the year to September was unchanged at 2.5%, which is minuscule compared to recent growth rates of 12% and 13% at the end of 2007.

Business credit rose of a monthly growth rate of 1.1% from 0.7% in August, but in the year to September, it slowed to 12.9% from 12.6%.

But much of this lending would have been done before the implosion of markets mid-month and the real impact of how the crunch became a freeze, won’t be seen until the end of next month when the October credit figures are released by the Reserve Bank.

But September’s figures still suggest a sluggish economy with still slowing levels of demand.

As if to back up the impression of a sluggish and slowly easing housing market from the RBA figures, the Housing Industry Association said today it saw a slide in new home sales last month. In its monthly report from 100 homebuilders across the country, the HIA said new home sales eased in September even after the RBA trimmed rates by 0.25% at the start of the month.

The HIA said that sales of homes fell 1.8% from August when they declined 1.3%, the sixth drop in nine months. Detached house sales fell 2.3%, the eighth straight monthly fall. However apartments sales rose 1.2%.

Peter Fray

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