Australian housing approvals slid in December, but not for apartments

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Australian building approvals fell slightly in December, according to data released by the ABS on Thursday.

Total approvals slid by 1.2% to 17,327 in seasonally adjusted terms, down 11.4% on the levels of a year earlier.

That was slightly above market expectations for a drop of 2.0%, and followed an upwardly-revised 7.5% jump in November.

According to the ABS, private housing approvals led the decline, slipping by 1.6% to 9,197. That was down 9.6% on the levels reported in December 2015.

Helping to offset that fall, private-sector dwelling approvals ex-houses — namely units — rose for a second consecutive month, inching up by 0.9% to 8,014, leaving the decline on a year earlier at 13%.

Over the year, combining both the public and private sector, a total of 230,817 dwellings were approved, down on the 240,009 number seen in 2015.

Housing approvals came in at 117,032, down from 119,662 in 2015, while those for dwellings ex-houses totaled 113,785, again below the 120,347 level of 2015.

Approvals are now clearly in a downswing. However, right now, the descent is shallow rather than steep.

In dollar terms, the value of total building approved in December rose by 0.4% in December, the second increase in a row.

The ABS said that the value of residential building rose by 0.2%, overshadowed by an increase in the the value of non-residential building which increased by 0.7%. The latter had previously fallen in the prior two months.

While they have help up fairly well in recent months, economists at ANZ say the recent moderation in approvals may reflect caution over the volume of supply that is expected to hit the market in the period ahead.

“It appears that the volume of supply set to come on stream over the next 12-18 months is weighing on new approvals,” it says. “We remain comfortable with our view that dwelling construction will remain elevated but gradually ease through 2017.”

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