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TransUnion Consumer Credit Index Shows Credit Health Deteriorating in the 3rd Quarter

21 August 2012 TransUnion

Index Tracks Consumer Credit Health; Impaired accounts up 5% year-on-year

TransUnion announced today that the Consumer Credit Index (CCI) declined to 48.6 in Q3 2012 from 51.2 in Q2 2012, indicating that consumer credit health is deteriorating. The CCI is a unique indicator of consumer credit health based on a 100-point scale. TransUnion, a global leader in credit and information management, developed the CCI, where an index above 50.0 indicates improving credit health while one below 50.0 represents deterioration. .

The decline in the index reflects worsening loan repayment behaviour and a greater use of revolving credit by South African households to supplement monthly budgets. Credit health refers to the ability of consumers to service existing credit obligations within the constraints of monthly household budgets.

According to TransUnion, the number of consumer loan accounts that have lapsed more than 90 days in arrears (impairments) is up 5.0% year-on-year. TransUnion data shows that impaired accounts now comprise around 1.8% of total accounts. However, while this figure has been rising, it remains some way below the distressed levels of 2009 when impairments increased to 2.2% of total accounts. “This essentially shows that the number of impairments would have to increase by about 20% to get back to 2009 levels,” said TransUnion Credit Bureau CEO Geoff Miller.

Miller also pointed out that rising impairments were not necessarily hurting most credit providers. “Credit providers make provisions for loan impairments, especially in light of the growth in their unsecured credit business which inherently carries a higher risk of impairment than secured credit.”

There is, however, some reason for relative optimism for the remainder of 2012. “The Reserve Bank cut interest rates by 50 basis points in July 2012, which should ease repayment burdens slightly on outstanding floating rate loans,” said Miller. “In addition, there are signs that price inflation is abating, which may provide some welcome relief to consumers for the remainder of 2012.”

Nevertheless, the CCI declined in Q3 2012 to below 50.0 for the first time since Q1 2009, ending more than three years of improvement in consumer credit health following the acute consumer credit market distress of 2008/09. “While the national consumer credit market as a whole does not appear to be undergoing acute levels of distress, there are indications that certain market segments are indeed coming under pressure,” said Miller. “South Africa is not one household but millions of households, and within the broader view of consumer credit health one must bear in mind that different households or groups of households may experience very different degrees of financial distress around servicing their debt obligations.

“The index tells us that should unsecured lending continue to grow at similarly strong rates to the past 12 to 24 months, there exists the potential for a mismatch to develop between consumer borrowing and underlying consumer credit health. This is an issue to which credit committees will no doubt already be devoting considerable attention.”

Unlike other indices in the market, the CCI is driven by objective market data rather than consumer surveys or questionnaire responses. “TransUnion’s indicator combines actual consumer borrowing and repayment behaviour obtained from the extensive TransUnion credit database, with key, publically available macroeconomic variables impacting household finances,” explained Miller.

Released on a quarterly basis to the public, the TransUnion CCI measures aggregate consumer loan repayment records; tracks the use of revolving consumer credit facilities as an indicator of distressed borrowing; estimates household cash flow as a means of determining financial pressure/relief; and quantifies the relative cost of servicing outstanding debt. These aspects are then combined into a single numeric score of consumer credit health. The index is compiled by TransUnion Credit Bureau, with technical support from market intelligence firm ETM Analytics.

Analysis suggests that the CCI may be a good leading indicator for business activity in certain economic sectors, particularly those more closely related to consumer spending. A full report on the quarterly TransUnion CCI can be found on http://www.transunion.co.za/.

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