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DBS sees home prices falling by 10-15% this year

But this decline will not make a material impact on the bank's portfolio: CEO
Saturday, February 15, 2014 - 06:00

Singapore

DBS Bank chief executive Piyush Gupta expects home prices to fall by 10-15 per cent this year - more than the 10 per cent forecast by property consultants - but says that this decline would not make a material impact on the bank's loan book. Speaking at DBS's Q4 results briefing, he said it is likely that the prices of high-end homes will slide 15 per cent, and that for lower-end ones, by 10 per cent.

As for the higher interest rates expected with the shrinking of monetary stimulus policy by the US, he said he was not expecting it to have any effect on DBS. "The Singapore portfolio is really driven on income considerations . . . As I've said before, the pressure will likely start coming when unemployment rises - more than when property prices change." Singapore's unemployment rate is now at a low 1.8 per cent.

Mr Gupta said: "All our stress tests in the past have shown that we can easily withstand a 20 per cent reduction in Singapore property prices without material impact on our portfolio. We stress-test (for a) 20 (per cent fall in property prices), but don't expect it to happen; our stress tests are always calibrated to go off the charts. My own sense is that there will be a correction of 10-15 per cent."

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He noted that the market was already stabilising and that the froth was running off, but that if this continued, the government would roll back some of the macro prudential measures. Sales of new mortgages have plunged 30-35 per cent at DBS, and by 40-50 per cent at OCBC Bank as a result of the stricter loan rules.

Mr Gupta likened the Singapore property market to that of New York and London, where prices held up even during the financial crisis between 2008 and 2012. While prices in the rest of the US fell by about a third, prices in New York slipped by only 10 per cent. It was a similar situation in London, another city where the demand is not dependent on the state of the domestic economy.

Mr Gupta said he expects regional money buying properties here to also put a floor under prices. With the slower sales, DBS's $49.1 billion mortgage book is likely to grow by $2 billion to $2.5 billion this year, down from $3.5 billion last year and $5 billion the year before that, said Mr Gupta.

OCBC Bank chief operating officer Ching Wei Hong said of the new mortgage sales having declined across the board: "That's expected, given all the cooling measures that have been imposed. We've built up a healthy inventory level. The inventory drives the growth of (the loan) book, going into 2014 and 2015. Beyond 2015 H2 and 2016, if conditions remain the same, we'll see a bit of tapering in that period."

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