Mortgage approvals slow but consumers still look willing to spend

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The number of mortgage approvals made to home buyers slowed further in August - but there were also signs that consumers were still prepared to borrow and spend cash despite the uncertain economy.

Bank of England figures showed 60,058 mortgages with a total value of £10.4 billion were approved for house purchase in August, marking the lowest monthly figure seen since November 2014.

The figure compares with an average of 66,734 loan approvals for house purchase seen over the previous six months.

But consumer credit picked up in August, showing a £1.6 billion increase, following a £1.2 billion increase in July.

Within consumer credit, credit card lending increased by £398 million and other types of lending, including that using personal loans and overdrafts, increased by £1.2 billion.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, predicted the "current resilience of the economy" and a shortage of homes for sale would prevent house prices from falling over the final months of 2016, despite softer housing market activity.

But he continued: "We believe that a slight dip in house prices is likely in 2017, possibly by around 3%."

Mr Archer said he believed housing market activity and prices would come under increasing pressure in 2017 as mounting uncertainty in the wake of the vote to leave the EU affects the economy and holds back consumer confidence.

He said the growth in consumer credit appeared "robust", adding: "Consumers were clearly prepared to continue borrowing and spending in August, and it is notable that confidence has recovered markedly after slumping in July in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote."

Mr Archer said he expected people's spending power will take a hit over the coming months amid a softening labour market. 

He said: "On the one hand, this may make people more cautious over borrowing, but on the other hand, it may increase the need for some people to borrow."

The Bank's figures also showed lending to non-financial businesses fell by £415 million in August, marking the first decrease seen since March. Lending to small and medium-sized non-financial businesses decreased by £411 million.

Mr Archer said: "There is concern that businesses will rein back their activities, especially investment, due to heightened uncertainty in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. We suspect that this could become more pronounced in 2017."