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Mortgage approvals jump to highest level for more than two years

UK Finance data showed banks approved 42,989 mortgages in April, up 6% from 40,564 in March and 11.5% higher than a year earlier.

High street banks approved the largest number of mortgages for more than two years last month despite Brexit uncertainty, according to a survey.
High street banks approved the largest number of mortgages for more than two years last month despite Brexit uncertainty, according to a survey.

Britain’s housing market has shown signs of a rebound after figures revealed high street banks approved the largest number of mortgages for more than two years last month.

Trade association UK Finance said banks approved 42,989 mortgages in April – the most since February 2017 – which was up 6% from 40,564 in March and 11.5% higher than a year earlier, on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Remortgaging approvals rose 5% to 31,152 between March and April and were 11% higher year-on-year.

April’s marked rise in mortgage approvals suggests that housing market activity may well have got at least some temporary support from the avoidance of a disruptive Brexit at the end of March Howard Archer, EY Item Club

But the figures also show that growth in overall net lending – gross lending less redemptions – slowed to £1.8 billion in April from £2.4 billion in March.

Gross mortgage lending also eased back by 1.4% to £20.3 billion year-on-year.

Property market experts said the figures suggest resilience in the face of Brexit uncertainty and come after the sector saw a sharp slowdown ahead of the original Brexit deadline.

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said: “Home purchase approvals, which are the most important element of these figures, were strongly higher in April but reflect a rather up and down period for the market.

“Nevertheless, it is a positive and once again demand proves to be more resilient, which it should be at this time of year.”

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said the property market may have been boosted by the Brexit deadline delay.

He said: “April’s marked rise in mortgage approvals suggests that housing market activity may well have got at least some temporary support from the avoidance of a disruptive Brexit at the end of March.

“It may very well also be that the housing market has benefited from recent improved consumer purchasing power and robust employment growth.”

The UK Finance data also revealed that credit card lending surged by 11.7% year-on-year to £11.4 billion, not seasonally adjusted.

UK Finance said consumers were not saddling themselves with high credit card debts, but were instead choosing to use plastic more and pay off each month.

It said: “This growth in spending reflects consumers’ increased preference for using credit cards as a means of payment, particularly online, because of purchase protection and card benefits.

“Repayments have remained in line with credit card spending, showing overall that consumers are managing their finances effectively.”

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