New home loans stuck at low level

The number of mortgages approved for house purchase remained close to a two-year low in January as activity in the property market remained subdued.

Just 28,932 loans were approved for people buying a property during the month, broadly unchanged from December's figure, which was the lowest since January 2009, according to the British Bankers' Association.

But there was a 5% jump in the number of people remortgaging, as homeowners opted for fixed-rate deals as speculation increased that the Bank of England would raise interest rates sooner than previously thought.

A total of 28,907 remortgage loans were approved during January, 28% more than a year ago, and only slightly down on November's figure, which was a 16-month high.

Net mortgage lending, which strips out redemptions and repayments, rose to £1.6 billion, 75% above December's figure and the highest level since August last year.

But the increase is likely to in part reflect the severe winter weather seen during December, as well as the festive season, both of which contributed to people delaying buying a home.

The figure is also still only half the level of net lending of more than £3 billion a month which was seen during 2009, while at just under 29,000, mortgage approvals for house purchase are well below the 70,000 to 80,000 approvals a month that are thought to be consistent with a stable housing market.

Unsecured borrowing continued to be subdued during January, with consumers repaying £217 million more than they borrowed.

Within the total, credit card lending rose by £106 million, but this was more than offset by a £323 million contraction in borrowing through loans and overdrafts.

It was the 18th consecutive month that people have repaid more than was advanced through loans and overdrafts.

Consumers increased their savings levels slightly during January, setting aside £1.59 billion, up from £1.45 billion in December, but well down on the £5.36 billion that was deposited in November.

Overall, the amount people have deposited has increased by 5% during the past year.

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