Mortgage approvals trending upwards, say High Street banks

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After a slow start to the year, the number of mortgages being approved is now "trending upwards", according to the UK's High Street banks.

Figures from the British Bankers Association (BBA) show that 38,751 house-purchase mortgages were offered in March, up from 37,453 in February.

That is the highest number for 6 months, but 14% lower than a year ago.

The BBA said that one reason for the improving picture was the low mortgage rates on offer.

Lenders have continued to cut rates, as the prospect of the Bank of England raising interest rates has receded.

Five-year fixed rates are now available for less than 2% a year.

"The third successive modest rise in mortgage approvals ties in with our belief that housing market activity is now gradually turning around," said Howard Archer, chief European and UK economist with IHS Global Insight.

Last week the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) - which represents building societies as well - reported a similar picture of gradually improving lending.

The BBA said more people were also borrowing money from banks in the form of loans or overdrafts.

Consumer borrowing rose by £400m in March, compared to February.

The BBA said that reflected improved consumer confidence.

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