Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Negative Rates Have Made Danes Richer Than Ever

After almost five years of negative interest rates, Danish households are richer than ever.

With more cash than they know what to do with, households are stuffing their banks full of deposits. The upshot is that the country with the world record in negative rates now also boasts a record in bank savings.

Central bank data show bank deposits in Denmark rose to 812.3 billion kroner ($117.1 billion) in December, which Nykredit estimates is the highest level since such a statistic was first compiled 16 years ago. It’s also a record when the numbers are adjusted for inflation and seasonal variations.

Danes have enjoyed an “impressive increase in real wages," Tore Stramer, chief economist at Nykredit, said by phone. Negative rates -- the benchmark deposit rate is minus 0.65 percent -- have also coincided with a sustained rise in employment and, crucially, a thriving housing market, he said. What’s more, banks have refrained from passing negative rates on to retail clients.

Stramer estimates that every man, woman, child and baby has the equivalent of $21,000 in a deposit account, if the aggregate figure is averaged out.

“We are seeing such tailwinds to the household sector that Danes can both increase consumption, bring down debt and increase their wealth," he said.

Industry data on Friday showed that the number of Danes putting their surplus cash in investment funds in 2016 rose by 42,000 people to 832,000 private individuals, which is the highest figure in over half a decade.

There are even signs that the record wealth levels are encouraging Danes to start paying down the rich world’s biggest gross debt burden relative to disposable incomes. For the first time since 2009, the share of home owners paying down principal on their mortgages now exceeds the share of those with interest-only loans.

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