irish times

Irish household debt falls by most in five years

Irish household debt fell by the most in five years during the first quarter of 2015, according to the Central Bank.

Its latest Quarterly Financial Accounts show total household debt fell to €154.6 billion or €33,530 per capita during the period, representing a fall of €3.7 billion or 2.3 per cent on the previous quarter. This was the largest decline in debt since the second quarter of 2010.

Though household debt here has decreased significantly in recent years , it still remains high relative to other countries, the Central Bank said.

It noted that only Denmark and the Netherlands had higher household debt relative to disposable income during the first quarter of 2015.

The figures also show that non-financial corporation debt as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) fell from 205 per cent in the final quarter of 2014 to 194 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

The decline reflected both an increase in the value of annualised GDP, as well as a €10.4 billion fall in the stock of debt.

The data indicate private sector debt, one of the greatest legacies of the crash, fell by 15 per cent to 273 per cent of GDP during the quarter.

This reflected both a decrease in private sector debt of €14.1 billion combined with an increase in annualised GDP of €5.3 billion.

A reduction of €10.4 billion in non-financial corporation debt was the largest contributor to the decline in private sector debt.

The European Commission, however, recommends a debt sustainability threshold of 160 per cent of GDP for private sector debt, substantially lower than Ireland’s 273 per cent.

Household net worth, a measure of household assets minus liabilities, continued to increase during the quarter, albeit at a more moderate rate than in previous quarters. Net worth rose by 2.2 per cent over the quarter to reach €595.7 billion or €129,238 per capita.

This increase comprised a further rise in financial assets (€14.3 billion) and a further decline in liabilities (€2.3 billion).

The former was largely due to a significant increase in the value of insurance technical reserves during the period, the Central Bank said.

The increase in net worth, however, was partly offset by a decline in housing asset values, which fell €3.8 billion on the back of a slide in house prices in January and February. This marked the first decline in housing assets since the first quarter of last year.

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