Home South African Brace for much higher interest rates on loans, mortgages by year-end

Brace for much higher interest rates on loans, mortgages by year-end

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South African consumers could end 2022 paying almost double in interest on their loans and mortgages, than they did at the end of last year.

A couple jogs past a for sale sign outside a house in Johannesburg. Rising interest rates will stifle property demand and vehicle sales. File picture: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

SOUTH African consumers could end 2022 paying almost double in interest on their loans and mortgages, than they did at the end of last year.

This scenario comes as the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) looks set to foster monetary policy tightening this coming week on the back of runaway inflation.

Headline consumer price inflation in June, the numbers of which are due to be released on Wednesday, could accelerate further than to 6.5 percent recorded in May.

Inflation has surged to a five-year high, breaking through the upper limit of the SARB’s target range of 3-6 percent, largely due to record-high fuel prices and to a lesser extent, higher food prices.

The war between Russia and Ukraine has aggravated global supply chain disruptions and added to the shortage of crucial commodities such as wheat and crude oil.

Fuel prices in South Africa have risen more than 20 percent since the beginning of the year, and at least 40 percent from a year ago, with the price of petrol now a touch to R27 a litre.

Adding to the country’s current woes is a weakening currency to near two-year low as the rand has breached the R17-mark to the dollar, meaning the cost of imported goods will be more expensive.

Faced with such deteriorating economic conditions, analysts this week said SARB had no choice but to hike interest rates by another 50 basis points from 4.75 percent to 5.25 percent on Thursday.

And with a further two hikes still expected in the latter part of the year, the year could end with interest rates easily above 6 percent and a far cry from the 3.75 percent at the end of 2021.

Currently, the prime lending rate is already at an elevated 8.25 percent, and a 50 basis point rise will take it to 8.75 percent, moving closer to 9 percent.

FNB economist Koketso Mano said interest rates could still rise by a full 1 percent in the remainder of the year, as inflation was showing no signs of peaking.

“We already anticipate the SARB to front-load interest rate hikes this year, which means a strong likelihood of no less than 50 basis points or 0.5 percent hikes at the remaining meetings this year,” Mano said.

SARB has revised upwards its forecast of headline inflation for this year to 5.9 percent from 5.8 percent.

The bank’s implied policy rate path of the Quarterly Projection Model, given the inflation forecast indicates gradual normalisation through to 2024.

SARB Governor Lesetja Kganyago, in May, said economic and financial conditions were expected to remain more volatile for the foreseeable future.

Analysts agreed that SARB would likely hike rates by 50 basis points in July, but the timing of the remaining rates hikes for 2022 was a bit more uncertain.

Anchor Capital co-chief investment officer Nolan Wapenaar concurred that there were 100 basis points worth of rates hikes left over the remaining July, September, and November.

This would take the repo rate to 5.75 percent by year-end.

Wapenaar said at the end of the day, there was a limit as to how high rates can go.

“SARB has to be cognisant of the detrimental impact of a rates-hiking cycle that is too severe on SA’s already strained economy,” he said.

“However, we cannot discount the various inflationary upside risks at this point, which would lead to further front-loading of the interest rates cycle.

“Overall, it is a difficult balance to achieve, and SARB will be walking a tightrope over the remainder of 2022.”

Central bank rates hikes, and the associated tightening of financial conditions are a blunt tool to tame inflation, but they also impede job creation and curb consumer spending.

In the US, the markets are now pricing in the possibility of a supersized 100 basis point rates hike from the US Federal Reserve this month, taking rates to 2.5 to 2.75 percent.

The central bank is firmly expected to ramp up its battle against their four-decade high inflation which printed at decades high 9.1 percent in June, and heightened recession risks.

Tighter global monetary policies in response to surging global inflation threaten to weaken global growth and reduce demand from key trading partners.

Nedbank economist Tachin Ramnath said these factors, coupled with the resurgence of Covid-19 cases in China and India, compel SARB to aggressively hike rates higher than expected.

“Higher than-expected inflation figures could persuade SARB to hike interest rates quicker than initially expected, adding further upwards pressure on the cost of production,” Ramnath said.

“Consumer prices hit a five-year high in May, which could lead to higher and more frequent interest rate hikes – further straining household budgets,” Ramnath said.

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