Eurozone property prices are set to correct as interest rates begin to rise in response to higher inflation, posing greater risks for low-income households, the Bank has warned. Central European.
A reversal in the region’s housing markets was one of the main risks identified by the ECB’s biannual financial stability review, which also warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine meant more companies were likely to default due to weaker growth, higher inflation and rising borrowing costs. .
Anticipating that asset prices could fall further if economic growth continues to weaken or if inflation rises faster than expected, the ECB said a sharp rise in rates could cause a “reversal” in oil prices. real estate in the eurozone, which it said were already overvalued by around 15%, relative to overall economic output and rents.
The central bank is preparing to raise its deposit rate in July for the first time in a decade and markets expect four quarter-point hikes this year, which it says “could challenge valuations of riskier assets, such as equities”.
Mortgage rates in the eurozone have already been rising since the start of the year. The ECB’s composite indicator of the cost of borrowing to buy a home rose from a low of 1.3% last September to 1.47% in March.
“A sharp increase in real interest rates could induce house price corrections in the near term, with the current low level of interest rates making a substantial reversal in house prices more likely,” the statement said. ECB.
House prices rose nearly 10% in the euro zone last year, the fastest rate in more than two decades, according to data from Eurostat, the statistics office of the European Commission. They could fall between 0.83 and 1.17% for every 0.1 percentage point increase in mortgage rates, after adjusting for inflation, the ECB calculated.
The Bundesbank recently warned that German banks were becoming too complacent about the risk of borrower default and the possibility of rising interest rates, increasing the amount of capital lenders must put up as collateral for their mortgages.
“We think the German real estate market should peak in the next two years, probably around 2024, although it could be much earlier if we have an interest rate shock,” said Jochen Möbert, analyst at Deutsche Bank Research. .
Rising interest rates will likely prompt institutional investors to shift money they have put into real estate into the German bond market, Möbert said, predicting that would likely happen when Bund yields rise from 1 % currently at between 2 and 4%. .
“Rental yields are below 4% in German cities on average and in metropolises they are lower, in some cases they are even 2.5%, so once risk-free rates reach this level it would be logical to go back to the Bunds,” he added.
The central bank said a switch to fixed-rate mortgages would shield many households from the immediate impact of rising borrowing costs.
Wealthier households could also cushion the blow by saving less or tapping into extra savings accumulated during the coronavirus pandemic, he said. However, he warned that this would leave low-income households “more exposed to the inflationary shock”.
The ECB said its recent “vulnerability analysis” of the banking sector showed it was “resilient to the macroeconomic ramifications of the war in Ukraine”.
Banks accounting for more than three-quarters of the sector’s assets would maintain a core capital adequacy ratio above 9% in its “very adverse scenario”, in which the euro zone economy would contract over the next three years, it said. said the central bank.
Rising interest rates should increase banks’ credit margins in the short term. But Luis de Guindos, vice-president of the ECB, warned that “in the medium term, the situation could be different”.
De Guindos said banks’ profit margins could be eroded by a “duration gap” between rising short-term funding costs for banks and their longer-term loans, such as mortgages, which hold rates down. down for many years.
He admitted that the ECB had been “too pessimistic” in its 2020 warning that the fallout from the pandemic could lead to a €1.4 billion increase in non-performing loans for banks, which did not unfold. materialized because bankruptcies have rather fallen thanks to the massive support of the State.
However, he said rising inflation and rising borrowing costs could cause some companies that have already been weakened during the pandemic to default. “Perhaps the insolvencies that didn’t happen during the pandemic could, at least in part, happen now,” he added.