Cash Points

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The Independent Online
The number of people failing to pay debts and declaring themselves insolvent has risen by more than a third. There were 13,013 individual insolvencies in England and Wales in the three months to December last year - up by 34.6 per cent on the same period in 2003, and up 8 per cent on the previous three-month period in 2004.

The figures from the Department of Trade and Industry come after a series of interest rate rises last year that saw the Bank of England base rate edge up from 3.75 per cent in January to 4.75 per cent in August. Of the insolvencies, 9,803 were bankruptcies and 3,210 recorded as individual voluntary arrangements, under which debtors work out a new repayment plan with creditors.

Property prices rose last month - but by just 0.8 per cent, according to the Halifax's house price index. As the market continued to slow, the annual rate of house price inflation eased to 13.7 per cent, the bank says.

Successive interest rate rises, and the difficulties caused by these and by soaring prices for first-time buyers, have prompted what the Halifax describes as a "measured slowdown" in the housing market.

But a number of indicators suggest the decline in growth in the market could be about to level off. These include a modest rise in the number of loans approved for house purchases in December, according to Bank of England figures. At the same time, estate agents recorded steady sales for the first time in nine months.

Newcastle building society has launched a five-year fixed-rate mortgage at 4.8 per cent.

The deal is available for up to 90 per cent loan-to-value but has a pounds 500 fee if you borrow up to pounds 500,000.

If your home loan is for more, the fee doubles to pounds 1,000. There is also a 5 per cent redemption penalty applicable throughout the life of the loan.

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