Belfast Telegraph

Mortgage approvals dip for first time in six months

Mortgage approvals dipped in February for the first time in six months, Bank of England figures show.

Some 125,622 mortgages got the go-ahead in February, down from 128,617 in January. It marks the first month-on-month fall since August 2016.

Within the total, loan approvals for house purchase and for re-mortgaging were both down month-on-month.

The Bank said despite the recent fall, the 125,622 loans approved in February still sits above the previous six-month average of 123,406 approvals.

Meanwhile, the annual growth rate in consumer credit, which includes non-mortgage borrowing such as that on credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts, remained at 10.5% in February - the same as the previous month.

Towards the end of 2016, the annual growth in consumer credit had been slightly higher, at 10.9% in November and 10.6% in December.

The Bank's Financial Policy Committee recently highlighted rising UK household debt, which is "high by historical levels".

The new figures show loans to non-financial businesses decreased by £1.8 billion overall in February, following a £3.6 billion increase in January.

Within February's lending figure, loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) increased by £606 million, while loans to large businesses decreased by £2.4 billion.

Howard Archer, an economist at IHS Markit, said the Bank's figures suggest that housing market activity may now be starting to be affected by the increasing squeeze on consumers and their concerns over the outlook.

He said: "The dip in mortgage approvals fuels our belief that the housing market will come under increasing pressure over the coming months."

Mr Archer said a slight slowdown in the growth in consumer credit borrowing compared with November "broadly links in with the impression that consumers are becoming more cautious as their purchasing power is increasingly diluted by rising inflation along with muted earnings growth".

Mr Archer said that while the £606 million increase in lending to SMEs in February was "good news", the overall fall in lending fuels suspicions that firms will become increasingly cautious in the coming months amid Brexit negotiations following the triggering of Article 50.

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