UK mortgage approvals fell to a four-year low in December

UK mortgage approvals fell to their lowest level since April 2013 in December, with banks approving 36,115 loans for house purchases. This represents

UK mortgage approvals fell to their lowest level since April 2013 in December, with banks approving 36,115 loans for house purchases.

This represents a 19 per cent drop on the previous December, and was lower than the 39,007 approved in November, according to figures from UK Finance. The level last month was also significantly lower than the long-term average of 51,609 monthly approvals.

Annual growth in consumer credit slowed to 0.7 per cent from 0.8 per cent, the weakest reading since UK Finance started publishing a new version of this figure in April last year

“December’s sharp drop in mortgage approvals suggests that already pressurized housing market activity took a further hit from the Bank of England raising interest rates in early-November,” said Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at EY.

“Housing market activity has been under pressure from squeezed consumer finances and fragile confidence.”

Meanwhile, Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the figures pointed to a difficult year for the housing market.

“So far, the chancellor’s reforms to stamp duty for first-time buyers in the November Budget have not reinvigorated the market. Indeed, new buyer enquiries fell sharply in December, according to RICS, indicating that mortgage approvals will continue to trend down in early 2018,” he said.

“Looking ahead, the easing of the squeeze on real incomes, as inflation falls back and wage growth revives modestly, should help households’ confidence to recover. But mortgage rates likely will rise further from the end of February… and again towards the end of the year, when the MPC likely will hike rates again. As such, we expect the housing market to remain very weak this year, with house prices merely holding steady.”

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