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Bank Negara would be announcing its decision on the OPR today. One of the sectors that would be most affected by a higher OPR is housing.

PETALING JAYA: Any attempt to raise the country’s benchmark interest rate too soon to pre-pandemic level may be detrimental to economic recovery.

Currently, the overnight policy rate (OPR) stands at 2%, following a 25-basis-point (bps) hike in May from 1.75%. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, the rate was at 3%.

Many economists are projecting at least a 50 bps OPR hike within the next six months, which would bring the policy rate to 2.5%.

However, they also cautioned that an aggressive increase in interest rate would dent consumer demand and stock market sentiment.

Bank Negara would be announcing its decision on the OPR today.

One of the sectors that would be most affected by a higher OPR is housing.

Amid persistent inflation, borrowers would have to incur higher monthly loan installments with the hike in OPR.

The question is, are borrowers ready to pay higher installments?

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Malaysia University of Science and Technology economics prof Geoffrey Williams told StarBiz that even small increases in borrowing costs would have a big effect on spending and welfare.

“For existing mortgages with variable interest rates, a 1% increase in interest rates on a RM400,000 loan increases repayment by around RM110 per month or RM1,320 per year.

“Interest rate hikes also make all new mortgages more expensive and so, it would hit the demand for new loans and new house sales.

“Together, this hits the housing market as well as new house start-ups,” he said.

A reduced appetite in property purchase would weigh down the loan growth for banks, which is often seen as a catalyst for consumer demand and economic growth.

Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd chief economist Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid also said a hike in OPR would have a knee-jerk effect on potential house buyers, especially the first-timers.

“The comparison that they would make before and after OPR hike in respect to monthly repayment would make them rethink their decision to buy a house.

“Maybe they would delay it for a little bit of time,” he said.

Malaysia University of Science and Technology economics prof Geoffrey Williams told StarBiz that even small increases in borrowing costs would have a big effect on spending and welfare.

Eventually, Mohd Afzanizam said many of the buyers would still buy the desired units, as they adapt to higher borrowing costs.

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