8-year low for personal debt

Household debt levels reached an eight-year low towards the end of last year, figures from the Central Bank showed yesterday.

According to the regulator’s quarterly financial accounts data for the third quarter of 2014 household debt fell €1.9bn to €160.6bn, or €34,846 per capita. Household net worth meanwhile, rose 5.5% in the quarter, largely driven by increases in housing assets. Net worth stood at €574bn at the end of last September.

“Household debt has fallen to 177% of household disposable incomes; the lowest level since the first quarter of 2006”, said Conall MacCoille, chief economist with Davy Stockbrokers, also noting that net worth is 28.3% up from its trough in the second quarter of 2012.

“This has reflected rising equity and house prices. Since the beginning of 2014, the Central Bank’s estimate of the value of housing assets has increased by €45bn, to €389bn, based on the 11.8% rise in the value of the CSO’s residential property price index over that period,” he added.

“Despite the pick-up in net worth, it is clear that households are still choosing to pay down debt at a rapid pace,” Mr MacCoille said.

“So far, the pick-up in Irish consumer spending has been driven by employment growth with savings rates remaining high to pay down debt. That said, new lending opportunities are held back by low levels of house building, with just 11,000 completions in 2014,” he said.