The financial crisis in 2008-09 demonstrated just how vulnerable the international financial system was and had enormous consequences for the economies in the western hemisphere. Even if traditional stabilisation policy tools, such as monetary and fiscal policy, were able to mitigate the crisis, they did not successfully prevent the build-up of risk that occurred over a long period of time prior to the crisis. The crisis therefore triggered the development of macroprudential policy, which aims to reduce the risk of financial crises and their subsequent effects.” It is with these words that Erik Thedéen began his speech at Finansdagen in Stockholm.
Erik Thedéen visited the Committee on Finance today for a Q&A session. He discussed the unprecedented economic conditions that Sweden is currently experiencing.
The Swedish economy is thriving, but a strong economy combined with low interestrates has resulted in high asset prices and rapidly rising household debt.
Households with high loan-to-income ratios, i.e. large loans in relation to income, are vulnerable. They are sensitive to rising interest rates since their monthly expenses are affected more than households with lower loan-to-income ratios. They are also somewhat more sensitive to a loss of income, for example if they become unemployed.
Finansinspektionen’s report, Stability in the Financial System, shows that the high level of household debt and rising house prices are causing vulnerabilities to build up in the Swedish economy. FI therefore would like to introduce a stricter amortisation requirement for new mortgage holders who take large loans in relation to their income.
This FI Analysis shows that the amortisation requirement has helped households with new mortgages change their behavior. New mortgagors are taking smaller mortgages than what they would have done if FI had not implemented the amortisation requirement. These households are also buying less expensive homes.
Household debt is a crucial matter which FI monitors closely, and the mortgage survey is an important part of this work. Household debt has increased sharply in recent years. During the same period, mortgage rates have fallen and are now at historically low levels, and house prices have also risen rapidly. Finansinspektionen (FI) judges there to be an elevated risk that house prices will fall compared to a normal state, and it is more likely that interest rates will rise than that they will fall.
The amortisation requirement that was introduced last year has had a slow-down effect thus far. Households with new mortgages are borrowing less and buying less expensive homes, but the risks associated with high household debt remain.
SUMMARY: In Sweden, both the percentage of mortgages that have a variable interest rate and household debts have risen sharply. This combination has made house-holds sensitive to rising interest rates.