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FICO UK Credit Market Report September 2020 Shows Card Spend Rise Stalling

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FICO UK Credit Market Report September 2020 Shows Card Spend Rise Stalling 1

Analysis based on UK card issuers’ data also shows high level of unused credit could be a risk as festive spending may be an antidote to a year of woes

Highlights

  • Average spending on UK credit cards levelled after previous months’ increases; rates of one missed payment fell
  • Rate of two missed payments continued to grow and September saw first increase in three missed payments since April 2020
  • September was second consecutive month to see increase in average interest charged
  • Percentage of payments to balance exceeded September 2019 rates
  • Cash usage continued to increase

London, November 19 2020 – Global analytics software provider FICO today released its analysis of UK card trends for September 2020, which shows the continuing impact of COVID-19 on household finances even while furlough and payment holidays remained in place during the month.

“The big challenge for credit providers right now is understanding the true level of financial difficulty consumers are facing because of the support being provided by furlough and payment holidays,” explained Stacey West, principal consultant for FICO® Advisors. “Our UK card data suggest that many people are becoming more prudent and reducing their card balances, but those who can’t reduce their card use are increasingly struggling.

“The recent announcement concerning the furlough extension and increase in percentage paid, along with the extended payment holidays, will result in increased debt levels being delayed until further into 2021. Christmas spending is likely to add to that longer-term debt burden. Of particular concern is that average balances on accounts missing two or more payments is higher and growing. Cash usage on cards has also increased month on month.”

Spend on UK cards increases marginally

Average spending on UK credit cards increased by only £1 in September to £640. Average spend is now only 2.9 percent lower than a year ago.

“Regional lockdowns and the end of the school holidays appears to have curbed the increase in spend seen over the previous three months,” said Stacey West. “With the introduction of the tier system, with stricter regulations reducing spending opportunities, October could see this stabilisation continue. The early part of November could well reflect extra spending ahead of the month-long national lockdown.”

Monthly payments continue to increase

The percentage of payments to balance increased for the third consecutive month; it is now 2.9 percent above September 2019. This is the first time since April that payments have exceeded those of 2019. The percentage of cardholders paying less than the full balance fell and the proportion paying the full balance increased and is now 8.4 percent higher than a year ago.

“The higher proportion of payments to balance is, of course, good news. Even if it’s a direct consequence of lower balances and the furlough and forbearance arrangements, it is encouraging to see consumers trying to manage their debts responsibly,” adds West.

Two and three month missed payments increase

The one missed payment rates decreased in September after two months of growth. But the average balance on accounts missing two payments is 9 percent higher than a year ago and the three missed payment rates increased for the first time since May, with the average balance 11.3 percent higher year-on-year. There is a segment of customers who could not afford to make their payment in July who continued to miss payments into September. The October data will show if this impacts 4+ missed payment rates.

West added: “Whilst it is positive to see the one missed payment rates falling, the true scale of the debt at risk of being unpaid will continue to be masked for many months due to the announcement of the continued support, extended payment deferrals and the introduction of more forbearance measures by issuers. Enhancing analytics by using better tools and increasing the data available will help issuers effectively identify the customers that need support so that they can communicate appropriately. Open banking transactional data will remain an important source and it is anticipated its use will expand in 2021.”

Unused credit a risk as Christmas approaches

The percentage of the card limit utilised on active accounts reached another over two-year low. September saw a second consecutive decrease in the average card limit to £5,404. While the highest proportion of accounts, 29.3 percent, have a limit in the range of £5,001 to £10,000, the average balance for these accounts is only £1,242. Those with limits of more than £10,000 have an average balance of £2,366.

Exposure on inactive accounts is at 34 percent and 72.3 percent of exposure on active accounts is unused.

“These figures clearly show the level of unused credit in the market. Despite the lockdown Christmas is expected to push spend up and a large proportion of consumers will have existing credit available to use without checks being in place to determine if the extra spend is affordable,” West adds. “Up to 80% furlough payments until at least the end of March, the Job Support Scheme and the extension of mortgage, loan and credit card payment holidays will give some consumers confidence to continue to spend in the short term.

“Higher card debt levels in 2021 is, therefore, a risk and issuers will be taking proactive steps to address this with increased customer interaction to understand the true existing and delayed financial impact. It is likely that digital communication will come more into play as a result. It is potentially easier to ask personal questions and for consumers to respond via digital channels. But this puts the onus on lenders to ensure they have the systems and contact details in place now.” A recent FICO survey showed that nearly one in five Britons say their bank doesn’t have their mobile number.

Accounts over their limit remain stable

September saw a decrease in the proportion of accounts exceeding their limit and this number is 42.9 percent lower year-on-year. However, the average amount over limit started to increase again and is 30 percent higher than September 2019.

Cash spend on cards continues to increase

The percentage of consumers using credit cards to get cash increased for the second consecutive month, after a significant fall during the first national lockdown. Although increasing 2.8 percent, levels are still 53.8 percent lower than a year ago.

This has resulted in a 2.6 percent increase in cash as a percentage of total spend. Both monthly increases were higher than those seen in 2019. However, it may be many months until we see the levels of cash usage reach pre-pandemic levels, and they may not rise that high again.

Finance

Sterling gets vaccine boost to hit 8-month high vs euro

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Sterling gets vaccine boost to hit 8-month high vs euro 2

By Joice Alves

(Reuters) – Sterling rose to a fresh eight-month high against the euro on Wednesday as Britain’s faster COVID-19 vaccine rollout than in the European Union offered support to the pound.

Although Britain’s deaths from the coronavirus pandemic passed 100,000 on Tuesday, its faster initial vaccine rollout has fuelled hopes for economic recovery.

Sterling was up 0.3% at 88.28 pence at 1049 GMT, after hitting a fresh eight-month high of against the single market currency.

Graphic: Sterling 27 Jan, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/jbyvrnbbbve/Sterling%2027%20Jan.png

Geoffrey Yu, senior EMEA market strategist at BNY Mellon, said “the general theme of UK doing well with vaccinations is playing a role” in lifting the pound, which is “not expensive and not over-owned yet”.

On the other hand, “the euro is clearly being undermined by ongoing concerns over vaccine rollout speed and supply,” Yu added.

Versus the greenback, sterling was flat at $1.3736, not far off a May 2018 high of $1.3759 touched earlier.

Hopes for a large U.S. fiscal stimulus package has fuelled risk sentiment in markets in recent weeks, benefiting sterling. Market participants are expecting Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to renew a commitment to ultra-easy policy.

“It’s FOMC today so the adjustment in dollar positions may be playing a role as well,” Yu said.

As Britain left the bloc in December, the City of London said the capital’s loss of some financial business due to Brexit has not been catastrophic and it will thrive even if the European Union “irrationally” blocks access.

“For now Sterling continues to trade more on hope, vaccines, than current reality,” said Jeremy Stretch, head of G10 FX Strategy at CIBC Capital Markets.

(Reporting by Joice Alves in VARESE, Italy. Editing by Alexander Smith and Andrew Cawthorne)

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Dollar advances as investors shy away from risk

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Dollar advances as investors shy away from risk 3

By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar edged higher against a basket of currencies on Monday, as a burst of volatility in stock markets around the globe sapped investors’ appetite for riskier currencies.

Concerns over the timing and size of additional U.S. fiscal stimulus sent major U.S. stock indexes briefly more than 1% lower before they recovered to trade little changed on the day.

The sharp move in stock markets soured FX traders’ appetite for risk, Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Cambridge Global Payments in Toronto, said.

“Your high beta currencies – currencies that are highly correlated with equity markets and global risk appetites – are tumbling in synchrony with equity indexes,” Schamotta said.

Market sentiment turned more cautious at the end of last week as European economic data showed that lockdown restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus hurt business activity.

The U.S. Dollar Currency Index was 0.19% higher at 90.396, after rising as high as 90.523, its strongest since Jan. 20.

The euro was down around 0.28% against the dollar. German business morale slumped to a six-month low in January as a second wave of COVID-19 halted a recovery in Europe’s largest economy, which will stagnate in the first quarter, the Ifo economic institute said on Monday.

The Australian dollar – seen as a liquid proxy for risk – was 0.16% lower against the dollar.

U.S. stocks have scaled new highs in recent sessions even as concerns about the pandemic-hit economy remain. Investors are trying to gauge whether officials in U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration could head off Republican concerns that his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief proposal was too expensive.

Despite the dollar’s recent rebound – the dollar index is up about 1.3% since early January – analysts expect a broad dollar decline during 2021. The net speculative short position on the dollar grew to its largest in 10 years in the week to Jan. 19, according to weekly futures data from CFTC released on Friday.

The U.S. Federal Reserve meets on Wednesday and Chair Jerome Powell is expected to signal that he has no plans to wind back the Fed’s massive stimulus any time soon – news which could push the dollar down further.

Sterling strengthened on Monday against the weaker euro as Britain’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout over the weekend offered support to the British currency.

(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Sonya Hepinstall)

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London and New York financial services treated the same, EU says

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London and New York financial services treated the same, EU says 4

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – An EU forum for discussing financial services with Britain will be similar to what the United States has, and it must be in place before market access will be considered, the bloc’s financial services chief said on Monday.

Britain’s Brexit trade deal with the EU from Jan. 1 does not cover financial services, leaving its City of London financial center largely cut off from the EU.

Both sides are committed to creating a forum for financial regulatory cooperation by March, but talks have not started yet, the EU financial services commissioner told the European Parliament.

“What we envisage for this framework is similar to what we have with the United States, a voluntary structure to compare regulatory initiatives, exchange views on international developments and discuss equivalence related issues,” Mairead McGuinness told the European Parliament.

U.S. and EU regulators took about four years just to agree on rules on cross-border derivatives.

Trading in euro shares has already left London, along with a chunk in swaps trading. That questions the value of any future EU access given that many banks and trading platforms from the UK have opened units in the bloc.

McGuinness said regulatory cooperation will not be about restoring market access that Britain has lost, nor will it constrain the EU’s unilateral equivalence process.

Equivalence refers to EU access when Brussels deems a non-EU country’s rules are similar enough to the bloc’s.

“Once we agree on our working arrangements, we can turn to resuming our unilateral equivalence assessments… using the same criteria as with all third countries, including anti-money laundering and taxation cooperation,” she said.

Britain plans to amend some EU rules.

“The United Kingdom intention to diverge requires a case-by-case discussion in each area. Equivalence and divergence are polar opposites,” McGuinness said.

“I am optimistic that over time, through cooperation and trust, we will build a stable and balanced relationship with our UK friends.”

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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