Singapore Minister Flags Risks of Low Rates on Property Market

Singapore’s deputy prime minister warned that low interest rates can lead to distortions in asset prices, amid speculation that the government may take fresh steps to cool the housing market.

“The interest rates today are ultra low, and in some cases even negative, so this can lead to a significant mispricing of asset prices and a significant risk of investing in the wrong places,” Heng Swee Keat said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Wednesday.

Singapore Minister Flags Risks of Low Rates on Property Market

Singapore’s residential property market has made a rapid recovery after the pandemic sent the economy into its worst recession, fueling speculation that authorities could impose cooling measures for the first time since July 2018. Government ministers including Heng have warned that they don’t want the market to run ahead of economic fundamentals.

“When individuals commit to buying a property, they are making a big part of their life savings in it and we want to make sure that it is something that’s sustainable,” Heng said in the interview.

When asked if it’s too early to ease the current property curbs, Heng said: “It is certainly premature and in fact I should say that we have to watch this.”

The last round of measures -- higher stamp duties and tighter home loan limits -- were imposed after prices spiked 9.1% the year before. For 2020, prices grew 2.2%. Heng declined to say what price threshold the government might have for any additional steps. “We are monitoring this,” he said.

Since the Asian and global financial crises, “we have developed a fairly good risk dashboard for the whole economy,” Heng said. “Different agencies are monitoring different aspects of the risk board so that if there’s a need for us to move preemptively, we will.”

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