Mortgage approvals at six-year high

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File photo dated 25/06/13 of an aerial view of houses in Brighton as nearly one million people are estimated to have taken out a payday loan in the last year to help cover their rent or mortgage costs, according to research from Shelter. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Wednesday January 15, 2014. The housing charity said that one in 50 (2%) people it surveyed said they had done this, which would equate to nearly 885,000 adults if the findings were projected across Britain. Shelter said it dealt with just under 9,000 calls to its helpline from people struggling to pay their rent or mortgage last year, rocketing by one third (32%) on the total for 2012. Its findings about the extent to which people are using loans to plug gaps in their finances came from a survey of almost 3,700 people in November who pay rent or a mortgage. See PA story MONEY Borrow. Photo credit should read: Chris Ison/PA Wire

The number of mortgage approvals granted to home buyers lifted to a new six-year high in January, Bank of England figures show.

Some 76,947 approvals with a total value of £12.4 billion got the go-ahead last month, marking the highest number seen since November 2007.

However loans, including overdrafts, to non-financial businesses decreased by £600 million in January, on top of the fall of £1.7 billion seen in December.

And lending to small and medium-sized enterprises fell by £300 million compared to the average monthly decrease of £500 million over the previous six months.

The updated figures came as the Bank said net lending to households and businesses under its Funding for Lending scheme remained positive, with £5.8 billion lent in the final quarter of 2013.
Cumulative net lending now stands at £10.3 billion over the 18 months from the scheme's start in 2012.

While mortgage borrowing conditions have been eased by FLS, small businesses - whose success is seen as key to economic recovery - are still struggling to borrow much-needed cash.

The scheme was launched last summer, offering cheap finance to lenders to match the loans they provide for households and businesses.

But its success in boosting the housing market was not matched in the small and medium enterprise (SME) area, prompting policymakers to scrap the household element of the scheme in order to re-focus efforts on SMEs.

Lloyds Banking Group said it it grew its total lending through FLS by £4.2 billion, more than other banks in the scheme so far in the quarterly updates.

The bank said: "We have committed £37 billion to our customers through the scheme since September 2012, when we launched our FLS lending offers, which include a 1% discount on all our lending to SMEs."

The figures also show that Lloyds is the biggest net lender to SMEs, with more than £1.1 billion of lending in the nine months from April to December 2013.

Despite the latest pick up in household lending, mortgage approvals are still 25% below pre-crisis levels.

Capital Economics' UK economist Samuel Tombs said: "A slight rise in mortgage rates and the introduction of stricter regulations may slow the recovery in approvals soon.

"Accordingly, today's lending figures provide little reason to fear that the economic recovery will end in tears because it is based on an unsustainable credit boom."

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