Slump in mortgage approvals following Brexit vote

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The number of mortgage approvals slumped to a one-and-half-year low in the month after the Brexit vote, according to a high street banking report. 

Loans for house purchases slipped 5% to an 18-month low of 37,662 in July, down from 39,763 in June, figures from the British Bankers' Association said. 

The setback comes amid a good week for the property sector, with housebuilder Persimmon shrugging off uncertainty surrounding the EU referendum result to post a 19% rise in pre-tax profits. 

However, ultra-low interest rates allowed consumer credit to push higher - rising more than 6% compared to July last year.

The BBA said it was boosted in part by last month's strong retail figures, which rose to a higher-than-expected 1.4% in July.

Borrowing by non-financial companies bounced back to rise by £2.3 billion last month, after a small fall in June - suggesting some businesses were still willing to press ahead with their investment plans following the Brexit vote.

Dr Rebecca Harding, BBA chief economist, said it was early days, but the data does not suggest borrowing was significantly affected by the EU referendum result.

She said many borrowing decisions will have been taken before Britain voted to leave the European Union. 

"We are also clearly still a nation of shoppers and the Brexit vote has done nothing to change the fact that we use credit cards for short-term purchases. Strong retail sales figures appear closely associated with strong consumer credit growth," she added.

"Businesses also appear to be borrowing as usual: the upward trend that characterised the first few months of this year is continuing. June's data looks like a blip, probably caused by pre-Brexit nervousness."

The BBA said gross mortgage borrowing rose 6% to £12.6 billion in July compared to the same month last year.  

Re-mortgaging was also 6% higher in July in contrast to 2015 and 21% up in the first seven months of this year.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist of Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the fall in mortgage approvals was clear evidence that the Brexit vote was making households reluctant to make major financial commitments.

He added: "The decline in approvals corresponds closely with the drop in RICS' measure of new buyer enquiries and indicators of consumer confidence, so the slowdown seems demand led.

"Lending therefore will revive if confidence improves, but the forthcoming stagnation of real incomes, as inflation revives and firms stop hiring, means there's little reason to expect a substantial improvement in sentiment."