Soaring home prices have been a boon to the banks’ mortgage business, but recent government efforts to cool the housing market could impact lenders if the economy falters, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) said Thursday.
While Canada’s economy is pumping out jobs and growing at a steady pace, a potential shock could put borrowers at risk of foreclosure — particularly those who have overextended themselves to buy homes, said CIBC chief risk officer Laura Dottori-Attanasio.
“If house prices do come off, we need our borrowers to continue to have their jobs to service their loans,” Dottori-Attanasio told investors on the bank’s third-quarter conference call.
“But in the event we find ourselves taking on assets, we do have — and continue to have — a good buffer as it relates to that loan-to-value.”
The prospect of more Canadians missing debt payments has become a hot topic of discussion in the financial sector as Canada heads into an uncertain economic climate next year. Many economists are calling for slower economic growth next year, saying the nearly 4% cent pace logged in the first quarter of this year is not sustainable.
Moody’s Investor Service said in a report earlier this week that mortgage growth is driving record consumer debt levels, which had reached $1.69 of debt for each dollar of disposable income as of March 31.
Meanwhile, stricter regulations drafted by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) last month could also put the brakes on loan portfolio growth by curbing mortgage demand considerably. An imposed “stress test” for all uninsured mortgages would make it harder to qualify.
CIBC’s chief executive Victor Dodig acknowledged that higher interest rates and regulatory changes would lead to a “moderation” in new mortgages, but reassured analysts that the bank is not concerned about any imminent impact.
“We’re not expecting a stepwise decline in consumer lending activity,” he said.
CIBC became the second Canadian bank to boost its quarterly dividend, following the path led by Royal Bank on Wednesday. An increase of three cents puts CIBC’s payment at $1.30 per share.
The bank posted net income of $1.1 billion $2.60 per common share, which was down from $3.61 per share in the 2016 third quarter when CIBC recorded an unusual gain from the sale of its minority interest in American Century Investments.
After adjustments, CIBC earned $2.77 per share or $1.17 billion in the three months ended July 31, up from $1.07 billion in last year’s third quarter, while revenue was on a par with last year at $4.1 billion.
CIBC’s core retail and business banking unit in Canada increased net income by 8% cent to $719 million.
But net income at its Canadian wealth management arm was down 73% or $370 million from last year, when CIBC recognized a $383-million gain from the ACI transaction.
Excluding that gain, wealth management’s adjusted net income was $136 million, up 10%. At U.S. commercial banking and wealth management, adjusted earnings was up $19 million at $44 million, mainly due to the acquisition of PrivateBank.
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