Mortgage approvals pick up in January

Mortgage approvals picked up more than expected in January and mortgage lending rose to its highest in almost a year, Bank of England figures showed.

However, consumer credit contracted at its fastest pace in over a year and money supply growth remained weak, suggesting overall credit conditions remained far from normal at a time of economic uncertainty.

The Bank of England said mortgage approvals numbered 45,723 in January, up from 42,719 in December, a month that had been impacted by freezing conditions.

However mortgage approvals are still running at only half their long-run average and few expect the housing market to gather pace in the coming months.

There was a £333m contraction in consumer credit, suggesting Britons are keen to pay down debt at a time of public spending cuts and tax rises.

M4 money supply grew by 0.8 per cent on the month but contracted 1.7 per cent on the year, the fastest annual contraction since the series began in 1983.