Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The TransUnion consumer credit index (CCI) has continued to reflect marginally improving consumer credit health, despite the difficult economic environment.

The CCI dropped marginally to 53.9 points in the third quarter from 54.1 in the second quarter.

A reading below 50 indicates deteriorating credit health while points above 50 signify improvement.

The index, which is based on consumer credit behaviour, household cash flow conditions and debt servicing costs, has hovered at about the break-even level.

TransUnion SA CEO Lee Naik said: "Despite some encouraging trends in the industry in the past few quarters, we have been cautioning for some time now that low economic growth, high unemployment, low wage growth and uncertainty in a volatile global economy all pose significant pressure and risk for consumers.

"The increases in the CCI since 2016 should not be seen as justification for complacency, but rather the opposite: doing more to restore lenders and borrowers to a healthier, more robust financial position," he added.

The gradual rise in the CCI compared to 2016 reflects the benefits of cautious lending, deleveraging, a stronger currency and a global growth upswing since then.

TransUnion also touched on the issue of rising government borrowing and debt levels. The report found that a high deficit was likely to lead to more risks with the exchange rate, and that the Reserve Bank would be more reluctant to cut interest rates at the next monetary policy committee (MPC) meetings next week.

"Volatile macroeconomic conditions keep companies cautious to invest and lend, which in turn raises job and wage insecurity," Naik explained.

"We think it is prudent to assume that the economic environment is going to remain challenging, which underscores the importance of well-managed credit policies."

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