Indebtedness accelerates

Total credit expansion accelerated to 7.8 percent year-on-year in April from 4.1 percent in March, the Bank of Greece announced yesterday. Credit growth to businesses and households remained strong, easing to 17.3 percent year-on-year from 17.8 percent in March. Still, the total amount of outstanding loans rose to 106.4 billion euros, or 65 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP). But it is personal loans which seem to attract clients the most, as they serve to cover immediate consumption needs. According to the central bank, personal loans increased at a blistering 53.7 percent pace in April. Outstanding personal loans have risen to 4.86 billion euros. The annual growth rate in February and March was 43.2 percent and 49.4 percent, respectively, pointing to a persistent accelerating trend. Credit card loan growth decelerated slightly, to 23.5 percent in April, from 23.9 percent in March and 24.8 percent in February. The total outstanding debt of households, which includes consumer and housing loans, increased at an annual pace of 29.2 percent in April to 43.6 billion euros. Credit extended to the public sector, including loans and securities issued by the State, was down 8.3 percent year-on-year versus a 17.2 percent drop in March. Greek households may not be as heavily indebted as their counterparts in other EU countries – the reason being the lower amount of outstanding housing loans, thanks to a high ownership percentage – but the acceleration of indebtedness is worrying the Bank of Greece. Recently, central bank Governor Nicholas Garganas warned consumers to think not only of their current income, but also of their expected future income and the fact that interest rates, now at a historic low, may rise.