Newspaper headlines: Concerns over buy-to-let market

A crackdown on the buy-to-let market and a warning on the EU referendum put the Bank of England on the front pages.

The Times leads on a move by the Bank to make it more difficult for people to borrow money for buy-to-let schemes.

"In the most concerted attempt yet to cool the housing market," says the Times, "the Bank announced criteria that will make it tougher to secure a loan on a buy-to-let property, including forcing all applicants to pass an affordability test based on a rise in interest rates to 5.5% from today's low of 0.5%.

"Banks were also ordered to take into account all the costs to a new landlord of owning the property as well as the personal tax liabilities and existing expenses of a potential borrower.

"The Bank stopped short of imposing specific hard restrictions, such as a maximum loan-to-value ratio."

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The paper reports that buy-to-let mortgages accounted for £37bn of lending in 2015 - up from £10bn in 2009 and a nearing pre-crash peak of £45bn in 2007.

"Bank officials estimate that lending to private landlords will hit £100bn over the next two years but hope that toughened guidelines will slow the rate of growth," it says.

"Lenders had told the central bank that they planned to increase buy-to-let lending by a fifth over the next two years, but the Bank said that its new measures could slow this rate of growth by between 10% and 20%.

"This would equate to about 22,000 fewer loans issued over the next two years, based on January's lending figures."


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Bank bans B-word

The Telegraph says the Bank announced a clampdown on buy-to-let landlords amid concerns that "risky" lending could lead to another market crash.

It came on a day when National Savings and Investments announced poorer rates for Premium Bonds and the odds of winning were pushed out from 26,000-1 to 30,000-1.

The Bank also warned that a vote to leave the EU could increase borrowing costs for homes and businesses.

Andrew Bailey, a deputy governor at the Bank, tells the paper that it has nothing against buy-to-let landlords.

However, he said that he hoped the new restrictions on mortgages for buy-to-let investors would help reduce the risk of "very volatile boom and bust conditions".

The Guardian leads on the Bank's warning about the EU referendum, saying that a vote to leave could lead to a run on sterling, a credit crunch and higher interest rates.

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Media captionTimes columnist Tim Montgomerie and Creative Industries Federation chief executive John Kampfner join the BBC News Channel to review Wednesday's front pages.

The paper says: "Threadneedle Street said the closely fought campaign posed the 'most significant near-term' domestic risk to financial stability after one of its policy committees weighed up the consequences of Britain ending its 43-year EU membership.

"Although neither Downing Street nor the Treasury responded to the statement from the Bank's Financial Policy Committee, the prime minister and the chancellor will find its assessment useful as they attempt to make the case for a Yes vote on 23 June."

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that the Bank of America (BofA) has banned senior staff from using the word "Brexit" when talking to clients because it does not want to become embroiled in the "raging debate" over the UK's membership of the EU.

"The US bank last week told managers 'not to provide opinions, not to influence voters, not to assume a particular result and not to engage in campaigning' in the run-up to the 23 June vote on whether the UK should leave the EU," says the FT.

"It has also changed its mind about getting involved financially. In February, BofA made plans to donate close to £100,000 to the campaign for Britain to stay in the EU but it has now reversed that decision, three people close to the situation said."

The bank, says the paper, declined to comment.


Steel industry crisis

The papers focus on news that steel giant Tata plans to sell its UK business, including the Port Talbot plant in south Wales, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

The Times says the steel industry was "plunged into crisis" at the announcement.

"At least 4,000 jobs and the reputation of Wales as the crucible of British steelworking were in jeopardy as sources indicated that the owner of the giant Port Talbot steel mills no longer wanted to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in the UK industry," it says.

The Guardian says Tata blamed cheap imports of Chinese steel and high energy costs for threatening its UK business.

The paper reports that business minister Anna Soubry sought to blame Liberal Democrat former Business Secretary Vince Cable for failing to do enough to protect the Port Talbot plant in the past.

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The Guardian continues: "A crisis has engulfed much of the British steel industry in the past 12 months, with the Redcar steel plant, owned by Thai company SSI, closing late last year with the loss of 1,700 jobs."

The Sun says the site may be taken over by the government to keep the furnaces burning until a buyer can be found.

The Mail says MPs and campaigners blamed it on the failure of the EU to increase tariffs to keep out cheap Chinese imports.

The Times comments on "steel's decline".

"Britain's economy may be growing but the recovery is strikingly imbalanced," it says. "Manufacturing industries are struggling and some are in crisis.

"The steel industry is an extreme case. Some 5,000 steel workers have lost their jobs in the past 12 months and more redundancies are to come at the Tata steel plant at Port Talbot."


Cat call

Finally, the Times reports that a group of Swedish animal behaviourologists believe that cats may pick up regional accents from their owners.

They will spend the next five years recruiting cats from different parts of Sweden to try to decipher what their miaows mean.

The Times comments: "It is a reassuring world in which a researcher from the University of Lund is paid to spend five years looking into whether cats speak differently in different parts of Sweden.

"Susanne Schotz is planning to test a hypothesis that feline vocalisation may vary in tone and lilt according to how owners speak to their pets.

"Hence the possibility suggested in today's paper that pussy cats may somehow develop regional miaowing or caterwauling that mimic the voices of their regional humans."