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Big banks hold back on full cut


The major banks have been criticised after passing on only part of this week's interest rate cut by the central bank.

The smallest and least profitable of the big four, the National Australia Bank (NAB), was the first to move on Wednesday. It announced it would pass on 20 basis points of the 25 basis point cut to the cash rate made by the Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday.

The cut reduces the NAB's standard variable home loan rate to 6.38 per cent from December 10.

Commonwealth Bank then trimmed its standard variable home loan rate, also by 20 basis points, to 6.4 per cent from December 10.

Westpac also cut by 20 basis points, which will take its variable rate mortgage to 6.51 per cent a year. The bank said the cut would save a customer with a $300,000 home loan $38 a month.

The ANZ will review its variable rates on December 14.

The NAB attracted criticism after personal banking executive Lisa Gray blamed high wholesale funding costs for the decision not to pass on the official cut by the RBA in full.

"The impact of deposit and wholesale funding costs remain high, resulting from instability in the global economy and low confidence domestically," Ms Gray said in a statement.

OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun said he questioned the credibility of the banks not passing on the rate cuts in full.

He said the latest data showed growth in lending had virtually stopped, as savings rates soared and people were paying down debt.

Household saving rates in the September quarter soared to a record high ratio of 10.9 per cent, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

Lending, or private sector credit, rose by just 0.1 per cent in October after rising by 0.3 per cent in September.

Personal credit has been falling for a year but rose by 0.1 per cent in October after dropping by 0.3 per cent in September.

"The banks keep claiming the cost of funding overseas is very, very expensive and they can't afford to pass on the full rate cut," Mr Le Brun told AAP.

"No one is denying that, but at the same time lending growth we're seeing here in Australia is absolutely anaemic, people are deleveraging more than getting themselves into more debt.

"You only borrow from offshore if demand in the lending market is there.

"To my mind, it just doesn't seem as if there would be that level of demand, it would appear to me that they should be able to cover it with the amount of deposits people are making."

Westpac and Commonwealth said, in announcing only a partial pass on of the RBA rate cut, that they had to balance the needs of mortgage holders with providing a competitive rate for depositors.