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Financial deregulation and household indebtedness

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Low saving rates and high indebtedness are characteristics of the household sector in many developed countries. As in other countries, financial deregulation has contributed to increased household indebtedness in New Zealand. This paper discusses several aspects of the linkages between deregulation and household consumption decisions. It begins with an overview of the financial sector reforms and a discussion of how the reforms affected households' access to credit. Secondly, the effect of a change in house prices on consumption is measured. Given that New Zealanders hold about 80 per cent of their wealth in housing, changes in house prices have the potential to materially affect household consumption decisions. Also, there is evidence that the effect of changes in housing wealth on consumption is stronger in the period after deregulation. Thirdly, the role of the household sector in the current account is discussed as banks have increasingly been borrowing overseas to fund household borrowing. The results indicate that the household sector's net overseas surplus declined by at least $7 billion over the last decade. Finaly, the ability of the household sector to weather an economic downturn is considered. Highly leveraged households are more vulnerable in times of stress, and their debt servicing capabilities might deteriorate when interest rates rise. Also, deterioration in household balance sheets could negatively impact the financial sector.

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Paper provided by Reserve Bank of New Zealand in its series Reserve Bank of New Zealand Discussion Paper Series with number DP2003/01.

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Length: 28p
Date of creation: Jan 2003
Handle: RePEc:nzb:nzbdps:2003/01
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  1. Jonathan A. Parker, 2000. "Spendthrift in America? On Two Decades of Decline in the U.S. Saving Rate," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1999, Volume 14, pages 317-387 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Michael Reddell & Ian Woolford & Sean Comber, 2001. "International capital flows, external debt, and New Zealand financial stability," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, vol. 64, December.
  3. Clive Thorp, 2002. "Developments in credit markets over two decades," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, vol. 65, June.
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