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Australian home-loan approvals unexpectedly fell in November for the first time in four months as central bank interest-rate cuts failed to boost demand from first-time buyers.
The number of loans granted to build or buy houses and apartments declined 0.5 percent from October, when they rose 0.1 percent, the statistics bureau said in Sydney today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 20 economists was for approvals to increase 0.5 percent.
The nation’s central bank reduced the overnight cash rate target six times since Nov. 1, 2011, to 3 percent in order to spur hiring and revive the housing market. Policy makers are aiming to rebalance Australia’s two-speed economy, where mining regions in the north and west thrive and manufacturers, retailers and builders in the south and east struggle.
“Developer and home-buyer sentiment remains weighed down by a soft economic outlook,” David Cannington, an economist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. (ANZ), wrote in a research report before today’s release.
The Australian dollar weakened after the data, buying $1.0531 at 11:36 a.m. in Sydney compared with $1.0541 before the report.
Today’s report showed the total value of loans fell 0.8 percent to A$21.5 billion ($22.6 billion) in November.
The value of lending to owner-occupiers gained 0.6 percent, the report showed. The value of loans to investors who plan to rent or resell homes dropped 3.3 percent.
First-home buyers accounted for 15.8 percent of dwellings that were financed in November, down from 18.7 percent in October and lower than 20.2 percent a year earlier, the report showed today.
Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens and his board last month cut the benchmark rate to 3 percent, matching the half-century low set during the 2009 global recession.
Government data last week showed retail sales unexpectedly declined for the first time in four months in November as consumers spent less on household goods and clothing in an economy with a weaker employment outlook.
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