TIP: four big banks, three rate cuts, two regulators...

...and new lending rules in a pear tree


Just what you wanted for Christmas: a new guide for banks to verify income and expenses of loan applicants. ASIC has updated its lending rules guidance for the first time in more than five years, in an effort to reduce the risk of people being granted loans they can't pay back.


These rules cover personal, small business and home loans, providing clarity for banks to help them assess if applicants are able to service their loans. A positive outcome could be that lending criteria becomes more standardised across lenders who have been accused of overcompensating in their assessments following the royal commission.


It's no surprise that the ASIC blueprint calls out certain categories of expenses. Private school fees are a red flag, as is Afterpay (through which Australians are now spending $1 billion every month) and Netflix subscriptions. On the plus side, the guidelines call for a more relaxed approach to customers who have serviced similar loans previously, or are known to the lender.


All I want for Christmas is a long-overdue wage increase


...says most of Australia. It's reached the point where economists are speculating the dire state of the Wage Price Index will drag down the mid-year budget update due to be released next Monday.


This will risk the surplus the Morrison government is gambling everything to sustain. It won't be thrilled that the AFR's annual Chanticleer CEO survey has shown overwhelming support for stimulus over surplus - ideally by way of bringing forward planned tax cuts and stepping up infrastructure development projects.


There was talk of business offering to step in to help address major issues including productivity, job creation, consumer spending stimulus, wage growth and transition to renewables. A big focus was income growth, which is at the tail end of the chain of improvements that would need to be made to Australia's economic conditions.


We know Australians aren't spending; as a nation, we banked the $6 billion handed to us courtesy of the most recent round of tax cuts. Black Friday and Cyber Monday were fun, but the pundits reckon we're in for a weak Christmas; Deloitte Access Economics reckons we'll see retail recovery after the silly season, in 2020.


News yesterday that the Australian Energy Market Commission reckons energy prices will drop by 7 per cent by June 2022 was welcome. That'll be low-impact if former Treasury boss, Dr Ken Henry is right; he reckons with the long-term economic problems Australia is struggling to deal with, we will continue to work longer, for less money - and the situation is only going to get worse.


In that context, there won't be too many aspiring home owners complaining about predictions we're in for a decade or more of low interest rates. But with new home construction shrinking again in November, and Sydney house prices likely to recover value lost during the downturn by early 2020 - the strongest growth in 31 years - ASIC's new lending guidelines could prove to be a lump of coal in our Christmas stockings.