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Mortgage approvals highest in a year

Source: Reuters - Thu 30th Jul 2009

Mortgage approvals for house purchase hit their highest level in more than a year in June but total consumer lending rose by the smallest amount on record, official data showed on Wednesday.

The Bank said home loan approvals numbered 47,584 in June, up from 44,169 in May and just above analysts' forecasts of 47,000.

That was the highest total since April 2008 and tallied with other surveys pointing to a levelling off in the decline in housing market activity.

"The comforting news is that it's bottomed out and is trending higher" said Alan Clarke, UK economist at BNP Paribas.

But mortgage lending was a lot lower than expected at 343 million pounds compared to economists' forecasts of 600 million pounds and 331 million in May, and total consumer lending was its weakest since the Bank started to collect data in April 1993.

Banks, building societies and other financiers lent consumers a net 414 million pounds for both home purchase and short-term borrowing, barely a 10th of last year's net new lending and down from 485 million in May.

Unsecured lending to consumers was just 71 million pounds, far less than the 300 million pounds forecast. May's lending figure was sharply downwardly revised to 153 million pounds from 300 million.

Headline M4 money supply was confirmed to have fallen by 0.2 percent in June, the biggest decline since September 2004, for an annual rise of 13.8 percent.

The Bank's preferred gauge of money supply, M4 excluding intermediate other financial corporations, fell 0.6 percent on the month, when many analysts would have expected quantitative easing to have delivered a boost. 

Faced with the worst recession in decades, the Bank cut interest rates to a record low earlier this year and launched a 125 billion pound programme of asset purchases to boost the money supply, bank lending and economic demand.

Policymakers have to decide the future of the scheme next week, as the 125 billion pounds has been all but spent on purchases of government bonds and a small sum of corporate debt.

"There is still little sign of the pick-up in bank lending growth that we think is necessary for a strong and sustained recovery in the wider economy" said Vicky Redwood, UK economist at Capital Economics.

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