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Banks surprise on upside with healthy growth

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Positive performance leans on robust indicators

PETALING JAYA: Banks are seeing healthy growth in their loans and deposits, prompting analysts to maintain their “overweight” calls on the sector.

CGS-CIMB Research said a positive surprise from the recent June statistics was the pick-up in loan growth from 5% to 5.6%, despite inflationary pressure.

“We raise our projected loan growth for 2022 from 4% to 5%, to 5% to 6%, given the better-than-expected loan growth and robust loan indicators in June,” the research house told clients in a report.

It also maintained its “overweight” call, premised on the expected expansion in net interest margins amid the overnight policy rate upcycle and declines in loan loss provisioning.

“Another positive take from June statistics was the robust loan applications and approvals, which surged 41.7% and 53% respectively, to all-time highs,” it said.

RHB Research, which also said it was maintaining its “overweight” call pointed out that banks’ asset quality remained robust despite gross impaired loans (GIL) inching up.

“In particular, we saw increases in GIL from households and the wholesale and retail trade sector.

“However, this was expected, given the expiry of certain loan relief programmes.

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“As a whole, system GIL ratio of 1.65% remains at a manageable level,” it told clients in its report.

RHB Research noted that banks were staying cautious of “risky” construction loans.

“Applications for construction-related loans almost tripled on a month-on-month basis in June, but approvals for such loans declined 4%.

“Guidance from the banks indicates that lenders are becoming more prudent on loans for construction purposes, as increasing building material costs and a shortage of labour are challenges confronting industry players,” said RHB Research, in its report.

“Construction-related GILs have increased 19% year-to-date, and had the highest GIL ratio at 6.36% versus the overall business GIL ratio of 2.38%,” it added.

Kenanga Research, which also maintained its “overweight” on the banking sector, said while indicators “may be on the precautionary side, we stand to believe banking stocks will remain resilient.”

It said it was anticipating a further two 25 basis points overnight policy rate (OPR) hikes, which “although might pressure household affordability, may not be too detrimental to business loans as they work to deliver economic growth.

“Previously affected sectors are also expected to make a comeback with the reopening of borders,“ Kenanga Research added.

However, it noted that it was aware that investors could be “slighted” by capital downside risks, no thanks to ongoing macro uncertainties such as prolonged supply chain disruptions and global recession worries.

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