Feb. 18, 2019, 3:18 p.m. EST

Australia : Australia's Westpac sees Q1 profit slide as property downturn gathers

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Feb 18, 2019 (Euclid Infotech Ltd via COMTEX) -- Australian No. 2 lender Westpac Banking Corp reported an apparent decline in December-quarter profit on Monday amid a downturn in the housing market, but its shares rose after the company said higher mortgage rates fattened profit margins.

The Sydney-based bank also reported a rise in mortgage customers struggling to pay their loans, another sign of pressure on the engine room of the country's retail banking sector.

The result reflects the back-to-basics strategy of Australia's big lenders as they raise lending rates and cut costs to weather the biggest property downturn in a generation.

That is against a backdrop of a regulatory crackdown on retail lending, fuelled by a misconduct inquiry into the finance sector which ended this month. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the country's biggest lender, and fourth-ranked National Australia Bank Ltd, posted weaker than expected earnings in recent weeks .

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