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Door swings shut on home loans

The rush of first-time buyers looking to beat yesterday's stamp-duty exemption deadline fizzled out in February as mortgage approvals fell 13 per cent to 31,033, the British Bankers' Association said.

High street banks lent £7.9bn in total over the month, 2 per cent less than a year earlier and below the average of the last six months. The threshold for stamp duty fell from £250,000 to £125,000 from midnight last night.