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Lending stronger than forecast in September

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There are signs that consumers are becoming more confident over the UK's economic prospects, as recent reports show lending picked up in September.

The number of mortgage approvals for new house purchase rose for the third month in a row in September, according to the Bank of England.

It also reported a strong pick-up in both consumer credit and the MPC’s preferred measure of the money supply, known as ‘M4’.

Both mortgage and unsecured consumer lending figures were stronger than forecast, and followed last week’s GDP number, which posted the strongest quarterly growth in five years between July and September.

Vicky Redwoord, Chief UK Economist at Capital Economics, said mortgage lending was now at about the same level as a year ago and less than half the level seen just before the financial crisis.

Mortgage lending grew by £491m, above the £350m predicted by analysts, while consumer credit was up by £1.2bn, its fastest rise in four-and-a-half years.

Redwood said: “With new mortgage rates starting to fall as a result of the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS), this recovery may continue to pick up pace,” she said.

“But so far the drop in borrowing rates seem to be focused on lower loan to value mortgages and so may not help first-time buyers.”

The Bank said mortgage approvals totalled 50,024 in September, up from 47,921 in August, beating forecasts of 48,100.

Both the government and the Bank of England are putting their faith in the FLS, which aims to stimulate lending by offering banks cheap money on the condition they lend it out.

September’s consumer credit figures showed a marked change compared to previous months.

There was a net increase of £307m in credit card borrowing, which was up from £72m in August.

Other loans and advances showed a net rise of £893m – the highest since February 2008 and contrasting with a net repayment of £163m in August.

Dr Howard Archer, Chief UK Economist at IHS, said the figures could be a sign that consumers are becoming more confident in spending.

“It certainly ties in with healthier retail sales during September – when volumes rose by 0.6% month-on-month,” he said.

However, he added that borrowing may also have been raised in reaction to people earlier splashing out on Olympics and Paralympics tickets and visits.

Archer added: “If consumers are becoming more prepared to spend helped by recent healthy employment growth, lower overall inflation and an edging up in earnings growth from the lows seen earlier in 2012, then there is a real chance the economy can continue to grow following the third-quarter rebound in GDP.”

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