September 10, 2018 / 12:30 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-National Australia Bank holds mortgage rates steady after rivals hike

* NAB holding variable mortgage rate steady

* Rivals CBA, Westpac, ANZ all hiked already

* Other bank shares rose after hikes (Adds CEO quote and background)

SYDNEY, Sept 10 (Reuters) - National Australia Bank said on Monday it will not lift its variable mortgage rate as it tries to win public support following revelations of misconduct, and despite its three larger rivals hiking their own rates.

The move keeps NAB in line with the central bank, which has held its official cash rate at a record low of 1.5 percent since 2016, while its competitors risk a political backlash by lifting their loan rates out-of-cycle.

It also means NAB will bear the rising cost of wholesale funding that its rivals blamed for their upward moves. The company said its variable home loan interest rate would stay at 5.24 per cent, for now.

“We are listening and acting differently. We need to rebuild the trust of our customers, and by holding our NAB standard variable rate longer, we help our customers for longer,” NAB Chief Executive Andrew Thorburn said in a statement.

Australian banks are under immense pressure from revelations of misconduct stemming from an ongoing public inquiry into the financial sector.

NAB’s wealth management unit was hit with a lawsuit from Australia’s corporate regulator last week, accusing it of charging fees to hundreds of thousands of retirees for financial advice they never received. The bank is assessing the regulator’s case.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corporation and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group hiked their rates in the past two weeks.

The four banks control about 80 percent of Australia’s deposit and home loan markets, with most of those loans priced in variable interest rates.

Their rate moves lifted bank shares while knocking the Australian dollar lower as traders wagered the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) might be forced to keep policy stimulatory for longer in the face of a de-facto tightening in the market.

Banking analysts had assumed NAB would follow suit. NAB shares fell 0.6 percent in early trade, in line with other bank stocks, as the broader market fell 0.3 percent. (Reporting by Tom Westbrook; editing by Richard Pullin and Stephen Coates)

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