Gabriel Makhlouf signals no change in home loan rules

Gabriel Makhlouf signals no change in home loan rules

The new governor of the Central Bank has signalled there will be little to no change when the bank completes the review of its own mortgage lending rules.

Gabriel Makhlouf used an expansive speech to students at Waterford Institute of Technology to outline the role the regulator plays in identifying the risks facing the Irish economy from Brexit, global trade, and climate change. Building the “resilience” of the banking system and households to respond to any new “tumult” was key, he said.

In his first major speech since taking up the job in September, Mr Makhlouf gave very little away about initiatives he plans to champion, but appeared to signal he would resist calls for any major overhaul in the loan-to-income and loan-to-value rules that since the crash have rationed lending to home borrowers.

The Central Bank is in the middle of a regular review of its mortgage rules and Mr Makhlouf said he would not provide any new details about the outcome at this time.

“However, I want to emphasise that the measures are aimed at strengthening borrower and bank resilience. And our focus remains on avoiding a return to the credit-house price spirals of the past,” he said.

There have been calls for changes to the rules from the banking industry but Mr Makhlouf said the measures had helped build up defences against any repeat of a property bubble.

In the speech, he also set out that foreign-owned multi-nationals help boost Irish prosperity, accounting for 40% of income tax revenues and a large part of corporation tax revenues.

“The size and complexity of multi-nationals combined with the concentrated nature of the sector, presents challenges not just for statisticians in compiling national accounts, but also for policymakers when assessing risks. It is important to understand the profile of such multinationals, and their sensitivity to changes in the global environment,” Mr Makhlouf said.

As the debt levels of households, firms, and the Government fall, the Irish economy was in better shape to withstand potential shocks, he said.

Brexit and “the risk of an escalation of trade wars — as well as cyclical developments, such as a sudden change in global financial conditions” pose risks to the economy, he said.

Brexit, he said, was “an enormous change” affecting all people and many companies. “Brexit will inevitably bring disruption — even with a deal — which, by its very nature, will dissipate over time. But we must not lose sight of the inevitable long-term costs. Any form of Brexit will be damaging for Ireland,” he said.

Meanwhile, investor hopes for some sort of breakthrough in the bitter US-China trade spat receded, weighing on global stock markets.

China reacted angrily to a bill in the US Senate amid the protests in Hong Kong.

“Today has seen widespread pessimism throughout the global financial markets, with Asian and European stock market weakness being transmitted into the US open,” said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at online broker IG.

“Chief amongst the concerns for markets is the tiresome issue of US-China trade relations, with the senate passing a controversial Hong Kong bill which will further strain US-China relations away from the negotiating table,” he said.

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