Momentum, in collaboration with the University of South Africa (Unisa), has released the South African Household Wealth Index for the 1st quarter of 2016 – which indicates that the value of households’ real net wealth increased during Q1 2016 despite contracting economic growth.
The increase can be ascribed to a decline in the real value of household liabilities and an increase in the real value of household assets.
The Momentum/Unisa South African Household Wealth Index estimates that the real value of households’ net wealth grew at an annualised pace of 3.9% between Q4 2015 and Q1 2016, meaning that the real value of households’ net wealth increased by an estimated R67.8 billion during Q1 2016 from R7 009 billion in Q4 2015 to R7 077 billion in Q1 2016. However it was still 1.2% less than the R7 160 billion a year before.
Analysis of household’s liabilities showed that credit active consumers earning less than R10 000 per month collectively have about 6.7% of all debt and are responsible for more than 18% of all instalments. Contrastingly, consumers earning more than R80 000 per month have more than 20% of all debt, but are responsible for 15% of the instalments.
Consumers on average used 25.6% of their gross income to repay debt in Q1 2016 – this is much higher than the 23.1% during Q4 2015. The increase can be attributed to the 75 basis point increase in the repo rate during Q1 2016, further growth in acquiring debt, as well as seasonal issues (such as bonuses increasing gross income during Q4 which in turn lowers the instalment to gross income ratio). Although the middle income group’s instalment to gross income ratio is the highest, they, in general, have more preferential interest rates than the lower income group and the youth.
As such credit active consumers in the lower income and youth categories, who collectively comprise the majority of credit active consumers, are most vulnerable to interest rate increases and more likely to default on debt repayments.
The pace at which households acquired credit slowed during Q1 2016. Momentum/Unisa estimates that the value of households’ liabilities increased to R1 892 billion in Q1 2016 from R1 888 billion in Q4 2015. This signifies an increase of 1.02%. However, the real value of such liabilities, excluding price increases to provide the purchasing power of households’ debt, decreased by 5.2% during Q1 2016. Therefore, the real value of household liabilities was only 0.2% higher than in Q1 2015.
One of the reasons for the slower increase in the value of household liabilities or decline in the real value can be credited to a decline in the purchases of durable goods (including vehicles normally financed through credit). Statistics released by the South African Reserve Bank shows that real purchases of durable goods declined at a pace of 14.4% in Q1 2016 compared to Q4 2015.
Affordability issues are also haunting consumers thus contributing to the slower uptake of credit. The 75 basis point increase in the repo rate contributed to debt service costs increasing by 16.2% compared to Q4 2015, following a similar increase in Q4 2015 compared to Q3 2015.
In addition, the consumer price inflation rate increased further and remained above the inflation target of 6% due to higher food prices and the weakening exchange rate. These two developments combined to reduce the affordability of goods normally purchased by way of debt.
Momentum/Unisa estimates that the real value of household assets increased by R49 billion over the course of Q1 2016 to R8 474 billion. This represents an increase of 2.4% from Q4 2015. However, it was still 0.9% lower when compared to a year ago. It is notable that the real value of household assets increased despite the economy contracting by 1.2% during Q1 2016 and the expanded unemployment rate increasing to 36% from 33.8% in Q4 2015.
The real value of household assets increased slightly as a result of a number of factors including growth in the acquisition of assets including contributions to annuities and retirement funds, a decline in claims paid and slightly higher returns on investments.
The report also revealed that households’ contributions to retirement savings are on a declining trend that will negatively affect consumer’s ability to retire in a financially well state. South African households have too much debt and the repayment thereof is using the space on their budgets that should be used for savings.