News Column

Lending rises as consumers spend

February 27, 2014

Mahmoud Kassem

Bank lending advanced 7.1 per cent in December, the fastest rate in at least four years, as cheaper financing and upbeat consumer confidence boosted demand for goods ranging from cars to real estate, Central Bank data showed yesterday.

"We are at the turning point of accelerating growth.

"Asset quality is improving at the same time lending appetite is improving. Loan demand is picking up," said Jaap Meijer, the head of research for financials at the Dubai-based Arqaam Capital.

"Banks have become more confident and investments are picking up, so you have both sides working. We expect double-digit growth going forward."

The economy grew more than 4 per cent last year after several years of lacklustre performance following the 2008 financial crash.

Banks had a particularly good run and last month reported a slew of double-digit earnings increases amid rising spending and cheaper interest rates.

Eibor, the interest rate at which banks lend to each other, is hovering near an eight-year low, driven in part by flows of money into bank accounts, stocks and real estate from jittery investors in other emerging markets that view the UAE as an oasis of stability. The 12-month Eibor stands at 1.177 per cent. Since 2006, when records began, it has averaged 2.83 per cent, reaching a high of 5.52 per cent in 2007. Car makers reported record sales last year.

The Ford Taurus posted a 60 per cent growth in sales across the region last year and topped the saloon segment, according to a Middle East Automotive Council report.

Property prices have also been heating up, especially after the removal of rental caps in Abu Dhabi.

And in the UAE as a whole, prices advanced more than 30 per cent last year, according to data from property agents.

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Source: National, The (United Arab Emirates)

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