Up to a third of mortgage holders don’t have a buffer for virus downturn

But there was almost a third who have tiny mortgage buffers, with the bank revealing half of these were “particularly vulnerable to a sharp decline in income”.

“For those with mortgage debt, a household member losing their job or having their working hours reduced is typically associated with greater financial stress,” it said.

The bank’s own research suggests for every one percentage point lift in unemployment, the nation’s mortgage arrears rate increases by about 0.8 percentage points.

Most analysts are tipping the jobless rate to climb above 8 per cent. It currently sits at 5.1 per cent.

The bank said those in the rental market were even more at risk, finding more than one-third of renting households have experienced financial stress in a given year. Those households were most at risk from the economic dislocation flowing from virus-related clampdowns.

“The most vulnerable include those working in jobs more exposed to unemployment risk, such as casual workers, and those in industries most affected by the COVID-19 containment measures, such as accommodation and food services,” it said.

The bank said the overall financial system was still in a position of strength despite the advent of the coronavirus downturn.

This was despite some people extending their hoarding habits from loo paper and tinned tomatoes to cash.

As occurred during the depths of the global financial crisis, people raced into their banks to withdraw cash. Some people with large balances withdrew huge sums of money, forcing the RBA to truck cash to particular branches.


“This included a small number of customers making very large withdrawals (more than $100,000 and in some cases into the millions of dollars),” the RBA noted.

“The Reserve Bank worked closely with the large banks and cash-in-transit companies to ensure branches had sufficient cash supplies. The elevated demand has since abated.”

Separate figures from the Australian Financial Security Authority, released on Thursday, show a lift in the number of personal insolvencies over the past week.

In the week to the end of April 5, the authority recorded 1019 personal insolvency claims. This is 21 per cent higher than the weekly average.

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