The value of new mortgages slipped another 2.1 per cent in January, marking Australia's largest annual decline since the global financial crisis.
The value of dwelling commitments excluding refinancing slipped to $17.12 billion in January, according to seasonally adjusted figures released on Tuesday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
That made for a 12-month decline of 20.6 per cent, with the total number of owner-occupier mortgage commitments falling 2.6 per cent over the month and 13.6 per cent over the year to 47,407.
"The pace of declines in housing finance eased in January from the sharp declines in December, but the trend remains very weak, with a positive turn unlikely in the near term," ANZ economists Jack Chambers and David Plank said.
"Further improvements in housing affordability or a significant loosening in lending standards (which is unlikely) would be the necessary precursors to an improvement in finance and the housing market overall."
House prices in most capital cities have fallen - by more than 10 per cent in Sydney from their 2017 peaks - as lenders tighten the flow of credit amid regulatory intervention and the harsh light of the royal commission.
"Weaker lending for dwellings again drove much of the overall fall in lending to households, with further falls in lending for investment dwellings and for owner-occupier dwellings in January," ABS chief economist Bruce Hockman said.
"Reflecting the impact of both supply and demand side factors, new lending for dwellings is down over 20 per cent from January 2018, the largest through the year decline since late 2008."
The biggest monthly fall in the number of owner-occupier commitments was the 9.5 per cent drop for newly built homes.
In dollar terms, owner-occupier dwellings excluding refinancing fell 1.3 per cent to $12.45 billion, taking the annual decline to 17.1 per cent.
New investor loans fell 4.1 per cent in January - and 28.6 per cent over 12 months - to $4.67 billion.
Total household lending, which includes personal loans, fell 2.4 per cent in the month to $31.29 billion, 17.5 per cent lower than a year earlier.
Lending to businesses jumped 10.8 per cent to $34.74 billion.
The financial regulator has called out the big banks for "unreasonably delayed" and in some cases "legalistic" fees-for-no-service reviews.
ASIC says Westpac, ANZ, NAB, Macquarie and AMP have yet to complete reviews of systemic fees-for-no-service failures beyond those already reported since 2013.
That's despite the regulator advising them to conduct them in 2015 or 2016.
Commonwealth Bank completed its further reviews but told the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in December it would look into whether three of its licensees had extracted fees-for-no-service.
ASIC commissioner Danielle Press said the size of the reviews - which go back six to 10 years and cover 36 licensees from six institutions that currently authorise more than 7,000 advisers - did not excuse the sluggish response.
'These reviews have been unreasonably delayed," Ms Press said.
"ASIC acknowledges that they are large scale reviews ... however, we believe the institutions have failed to sufficiently prioritise and resource their reviews."
She said the main reasons for the delays included poor internal record keeping and inadequate methodologies such as some institutions proposing to make customers opt in to a review and remediation program.
"Some institutions have taken a legalistic approach to determination of the services they were required to provide," Ms Press said.
She welcomed the government’s commitment to give ASIC new directions powers that could speed up future remediation programs.
The charging of fees for services that customers didn't need, couldn't access or didn't know they were entitled to was one of the major scandals heard by the financial services royal commission.
While CBA is reviewing its three licensees, Macquarie estimates it will complete its review by mid 2019 and AMP in the second half of 2021.
ANZ, NAB licensee JBWere and Westpac licensees Magnitude and Securitor have not given ASIC their proposed target dates for completion.
AMP Capital has promoted Debbie Alliston to chief investment officer of its $62 billion multi-asset funds portfolio.
Ms Alliston assumes the role from Sean Henaghan, who is taking a 15-month sabbatical.
She will be responsible for teams within AMP Capital's multi-asset group delivering tailored investment including asset allocation and portfolio construction.
AMP Capital invests funds on behalf of clients as well as AMP, and is managed independently to the AMP Group.
AMP Capital Global head of public markets Simon Warner said Ms Alliston is ideal for the position following seven years managing multi-asset portfolios.
"Debbie has an excellent understanding of the business and how we can execute our strategic priorities in a dynamic market," Mr Warner said on Thursday.
Ms Alliston will report to Mr Warner, who was appointed head of its freshly formed public markets business from October last year.
AMP Capital's parent company AMP recently reported full-year profit dropped 97 per cent, to $28 million, after the firm set aside millions in remediation for its wrongdoings following its royal commission drubbing.
At 1221 AEDT, AMP shares were flat at $2.37.
Australia's competition watchdog has dropped a provisional date for when it will decide whether to approve TPG Telecom's proposed merger Vodafone Group Plc, an update on its website shows.
In its latest delay, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said on Friday it was still receiving required information from TPG and Vodafone before it can set a new provisional date for its decision on the mega-telco tie-up.
ACCC had initially set a provisional date of March 28, but in January pushed that back by two weeks to April 11.
In December, ACCC said it was concerned whether the merger would reduce the incentive for the resulting entity to offer lower prices, as the deal involves two of the industry's biggest four players.
The regulator's decision may be further complicated by TPG's move in January to abandon plans to build a mobile telephone network due to a ban on the use of equipment from Huawei Technologies, its chosen supplier.
A Vodafone spokesperson said the company has provided a "significant amount of material" already, and remains committed to the merger.
TPG did not respond to an emailed request for a comment.
Retailer Vita Group, the operator of Telstra stores across the country, has recorded a 26 per cent increase in half-year net profit to $14.1 million as it expanded into skincare clinics.
The company, which in December extended its deal to run the telco-branded stores and business centres until 2024, said revenue increased 14 per cent to $377 million in the six months to December 31.
Vita opened 10 outlets under its non-invasive medical aesthetics brand Artisan Aesthetic Clinics in Queensland, NSW and the ACT after acquiring a cosmetic injectables training organisation and a skin treatment business in November.
"These investments in capability will enhance the group's medical and operational competencies, and will enable the business to scale further, building revenues and profitability," the company said.
The group also acquired Cosmedcloud, a provider of cloud-based software solutions for cosmetic doctors, nurses and plastic surgeons, in January.
Vita's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the half-year increased 25 per cent to $25.0 million, above its October 2018 guidance range of $23.0 million to $24.5 million.
Chief executive Maxine Horne said Vita's tech gadget accessories brand Sprout was the stand-out performer for the group.
"We are really pleased to deliver such a strong performance, despite tough conditions in the ICT (information and communications technology) industry," Ms Horne said.
The company also said it was changing to a new "operating model" in its Telstra relationship, with the retailer to run bigger business centres for "larger, higher value customers and with a lower cost to serve".
"Our long-term strategic partnership with Telstra remains strong and we will continue to invest in our retail and business channels and enjoy continued profitability and cash flow from this part of our business," Ms Horne said.
Vita increased its interim dividend to 5.0 cents per share, fully franked.
Its shares were up 8.33 per cent to $1.49 at 1135 AEDT on Friday, rising to an 11-month high but down from a peak of $5.35 in September 2016.
VITA H1 PROFIT LIFTS
* Half-year net profit up 26 pct to $14.1m
* Revenue up 14 pct to $377m
* Interim dividend up 0.5 cents to 5.2 cents per share, fully franked, from a year earlier
Mortgage Choice has slashed its interim dividend after a 44 per cent fall in first-half profit, citing uncertainty over the long-term effects of a final royal commission report that recommended an overhaul of the broking industry.
The mortgage broker said its first-half net profit slumped to $6.39 million, from $11.43 million a year earlier, after revenue for the six months to December 31 fell nine per cent to $87.19 million.
It cut its interim dividend by two-thirds to three cents and pointed to the recommendation by Commissioner Kenneth Hayne that trailing commissions to mortgage brokers for new loans be banned.
"The company’s board of directors have decided it is prudent to retain a proportion of the company’s earnings to address the uncertainty arising from the royal commission's recommendations regarding broker remuneration," Mortgage Choice said in a statement.
Hayne recommended the industry move from a commission-based pay structure to a fee-based model in the interest of greater clarity for consumers.
The company said it "was surprised by the recommendations related (to) broker remuneration and believe they have gone too far," adding that a borrower-pays model "could decimate the broking industry and many of the smaller lenders who rely on it for distribution".
“The half-year results are as we anticipated," chief executive Susan Mitchell said, adding that the fall in profit was largely due to "changes to the broker remuneration model account" and the new set up that started in August.
Mortgage Choice was forced to overhaul its remuneration structure last year following unrest from franchisees.
"The new broker remuneration model has been in place for five months and pays franchisees more whilst reducing their income volatility when the market slows," Ms Mitchell said.
The loan broker said its bottom line was also affected by declining property prices, especially recent accelerating falls in Sydney and Melbourne.
"Settlement volumes have been impacted by the slowing property and home loan markets," Ms Mitchell said.
Mortgage Choice settlements for the half year fell 12 per cent from the prior comparative period to $5.3 billion.
The company said it was on track to cut expenses by 10 per cent for the full year.
Shares in the company were up 7.09 per cent to 75.5 cents at 1300 AEDT amid reports the Labor party was reconsidering its policy on brokers.
Coca-Cola Amatil's first-half profit has slipped 37 per cent after a year of challenges at home and abroad, and a $146.9 million write-down of fruit and vegetable canning business SPC.
The beverage giant's net profit fell to $279 million in the six months to December 31, from $445.2 million, while total revenue rose just one per cent to $4.8 billion.
Underlying earnings before interest and tax fell 6.5 per cent to $634.5 million.
The group says it faced a challenging year in Australia due to the implementation of container deposit schemes in NSW and Queensland and falling sales across its beverage selection.
Across the ocean, soft market conditions, a weak currency and higher commodity prices in Indonesia, as well as logistics and manufacturing challenges in Papua New Guinea, resulted in a combined 2.1 per cent dip in revenue to $981.7 million.
Time is ticking for Labor to try and extend federal parliament by two weeks in March.
Labor wants parliament to sit longer to deal with the banking royal commission's recommendations but has just one more day to force a vote on the issue ahead of the April 2 budget.
The opposition must win over all seven crossbenchers on Thursday to achieve the 76 votes it needs in the House of Representatives to add the extra sitting days next month.
But Labor is unlikely to get the support it needs, with independent Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie sceptical that adding extra sitting days will lead to meaningful process on the recommendations.
"It could even be counter-productive seeing as the extra days would be so soon, and so few, as to not allow time to properly prepare, scrutinise and debate the necessary bills in both houses of parliament," he said.
“Of course we must implement the recommendations as soon as possible. But we’ve got to get it right.
"The last thing we want is a cluster of botched laws that help no one and even make matters worse."
Independent Queensland MP Bob Katter is also unsure as to whether he would support a push for more sitting days, with a spokeswoman telling AAP he's concerned about the cost.
His primary concern is helping flood-stricken farmers in north Queensland, she added.
The government is opposed to more sitting days, arguing that fast-tracking a response to the recommendations would be reckless.
Labor has drawn up three bills to deal with the banking royal commission recommendations it says parliament should deal with straight away.
The proposed laws would remove grandfathered commissions for financial planners from January 1, 2020, immediately ban the exploitation of indigenous people through the selling of funeral insurance, and ensure banks co-operate promptly with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
They would also remove point-of-sale exemptions for credit sales such as car loans, and remove an exemption that means the corporate regulator has no oversight of insurance claims.
Most people who apply for a home loan can still get one, although the process is harder and takes longer.
The Reserve Bank says lenders are competing vigorously to attract lower-risk borrowers as fewer people apply for mortgages.
Housing credit conditions are tighter than they have been for some time following improvements in lending policies and practices in recent years, the central bank said in its latest assessment of the economy.
Lenders have increased their scrutiny of would-be borrowers' expenses over the past year, but the RBA concluded the further tightening in lending standards was not the main explanation for a recent decline in housing credit growth.
It pointed to reduced demand for housing loans, particularly from investors put off by the fall in house prices in the major markets.
In Friday's Statement on Monetary Policy, the RBA said its liaison with the major banks and mortgage brokers indicated they had been receiving significantly fewer loan applications over the past year or more.
"Liaison also reported that most people who apply for a housing loan can still obtain one, though they have to provide more documentation, answer more questions and wait a few days longer to be approved."
It now typically took about one week for an application to be approved.
Mortgage brokers reported lenders were no longer making as many exceptions to their credit policies as they did in the past.
Brokers also suggested the increased public scrutiny of the banking royal commission may have led some individual loan assessors to apply stricter criteria than that required by official lending requirements.
Banks reported that while loan assessors were referring more approvals to credit officers, the final approval rate remained high.
Some people who would have normally obtained a loan from the banks were borrowing from non-bank lenders.
The RBA said lenders were competing vigorously to attract borrowers with high-quality credit profiles who were applying for owner-occupier principal-and-interest loans.
"In particular, owner-occupiers with low loan-to-valuation ratios who can demonstrate the ability to service their loan are being offered quite low interest rates.
"Liaison also suggests that borrowers with these characteristics who have had a home loan for some time and want to refinance can often obtain a lower interest rate from another institution or convince their existing lender to lower the rate that they are paying."