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EMPLOYMENT, NOT INTEREST RATES IS THE KEY TO ALLEVIATING MORTGAGE STRESS



 

Sydney, Australia (25th, November 2008) Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand, a leading service provider of business, information technology and communications solutions today released the latest edition of the Mortgage Stress-O-Meter through the Fujitsu Consulting Group. The Mortgage Stress Survey is based on a rolling 26,000-consumer survey updated monthly.

Martin North, Managing Consulting Director, Fujitsu Consulting said the latest results are two fold. On one hand there is good news about lower interest rates and the costs of living, but on the other, many households were now concerned about falling investment returns and the spectre of rising unemployment, both directly linked to the global slowdown. “Until we see unemployment trends falling, the housing market will continue to experience significant difficulty, and many households will continue to struggle to keep their heads above water, despite falling interest rates”, stated North.

The survey results presented findings such as:

Since July, households reported a positive 20% percentage point drop as interest rates have been cut, and a fall of 7% due to lower prices. This is offset by a 12.5% increase in unemployment fears, and a 7% rise in stress caused by falling investment returns.

In October, there was a 3% fall in stressed households compared with the previous month, to 770,000. However those in severe stress rose by 13% to 291,000. Severe Stressed Households are more likely to be forced to refinance or sell in the coming months.

With unemployment now forecast by the Treasury to rise to 5% by June 2009, Fujitsu Consulting estimates that total stress will rise to over 1.1 million households by the same time frame, with 433,000 households likely to be in severe stress. This has the potential to translate to 27,000 defaults in a full year. If unemployment were to rise to 9% by the end of 2009, as some economists are suggesting, then defaults could be expected to rise to over 100,000 in a full year. This is after offsetting additional interest rate reductions and adjusting for lower levels of inflation through 2009.

35% of workers employed by small businesses reported that overtime was significantly down, and 21% said they knew of colleagues who had lost their jobs in the last few weeks. “One reason why severe stress is up is the SME sector, traditionally the engine of the economy, is under some stress just now, said Mr North. “Households reliant on incomes from the SME sector are concerned about their future earning prospects. As a result they are pulling back in their discretionary spending”.

We found that a significant number of “Off The Plan” speculative property investors now faced the prospect of trying to sell in a falling market and are facing potential negative equity as a result”, Mr North said. In addition, despite recent increases in first time buyer incentives, concerns about future employment have frozen out many potential first time buyers. “Affluent Stress continues to increase as more margin calls and falling stock market returns continue to have an impact.

The survey results also revealed property prices in many suburbs will continue to drift down until uncertainties about employment abate. Fujitsu Consulting’s review suggests this is not likely to eventuate for the next 12 to 18 months. Mr North said, “It is unlikely that future interest rate cuts, even if they are fully passed on to households will turn this around”.

Fujitsu Consulting has been tracking the mortgage industry for more than 5 years with the Stress-O-Meter reporting month results for he past two years.


About the Mortgage Stress-O-Meter

Surveying households about their spending patterns using a series of structured questions that assess their ability to finance their debt feeds the Stress-O-Meter. Updated monthly, data is incorporated from the rolling 26,000-consumer sample.

Households are segmented around 11 groups with discrete and disparate characteristics. This enables the Stress-O-Meter to highlight where stress is most prevalent.

Rather than using the blunt 30% of income rule, we ask a series of structured questions to determine whether households are having to cut back on their spending, put more on credit cards (mild stress), or have serially refinanced, decided to sell up of been foreclosed (severe stress).

This is a significantly more accurate measure of real stress. On average 5% of people in severe stress will go on to default on their mortgage. Background information is available in our Anatomy of Mortgage Stress Report previously published.

State based data is available on request.

For more information about Fujitsu Australia’s Mortgage Stress Survey or other solutions and offerings please visit: www.fujitsu.com/au/ or www.fujitsu.com/nz


About Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand

Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand is a leading service provider of business, information technology and communications solutions. Throughout Australia and New Zealand we partner with our customers to consult, design, build, operate and support business solutions. From strategic consulting to application and infrastructure solutions and services, Fujitsu Australia and New Zealand have earned a reputation as the single supplier of choice for leading corporate and government organisations. Fujitsu Australia Limited and Fujitsu New Zealand Limited are wholly owned subsidiaries of Fujitsu Limited (TSE: 6702).


About Fujitsu

Fujitsu is a leading provider of IT-based business solutions for the global marketplace. With approximately 160,000 employees supporting customers in 70 countries, Fujitsu combines a worldwide corps of systems and services experts with highly reliable computing and communications products and advanced microelectronics to deliver added value to customers. Headquartered in Tokyo, Fujitsu Limited (TSE:6702) reported consolidated revenues of 5.3 trillion yen (US$53 billion) for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2008. For more information, please see: www.fujitsu.com