Growth in non-mortgage borrowing slows to four-year low

Annual growth in consumers’ non-mortgage borrowing slowed to a four-year low in the run-up to Christmas, Bank of England figures show.

At the same time, households were ramping up deposits in savings which could be easily accessed.

Experts said the figures reinforce the impression that consumers are being cautious in their borrowing as Brexit looms.

The overall slowdown in borrowing using methods such as credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts reflects relatively weak flows of new lending, the Bank’s Money and Credit report said.

Consumer credit increased by 6.6% in December, slowing from a 7.2% annual increase in November and marking the lowest annual growth since December 2014.

The Bank said annual growth in consumer credit has been slowing gradually since reaching a peak of 10.9% in November 2016.

The growth rate of credit card lending, which had until recently been fairly stable, the Bank said, fell to 7.1%.

The growth rate on other types of loan, which has been weakening for the past two years, fell further to 6.4%.

The Bank said the net monthly flow of consumer credit slowed in December to a nine-month low of £687 million, reflecting less extra borrowing on credit cards.

The recent slowdown in net consumer credit reflects an increase in repayments more than offsetting higher gross borrowing by households, the report said.

Households significantly increased their deposits in instant access savings accounts paying interest in December, the Bank said.

Meanwhile, 63,793 mortgage approvals were made to home buyers in December – marking an eight-month low and below the average of around 65,200 across 2018.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at EY Item Club, said: “December’s consumer credit data reinforces the impression that consumers are currently cautious in their borrowing while lenders have certainly become warier about advancing unsecured credit.”

He said the lending figures tie in with “muted retail sales” in December.

Mr Archer said: “The ongoing slowdown in net unsecured consumer credit growth to a four-year low in December reinforces belief that heightened uncertainties focused on Brexit are likely to weigh down on the economy in the near term at least.”

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