Easing credit conditions are making it easier for consumers to buy new vehicles and should boost auto sales in the second half of the year, according to a new report by Scotia Economics.

The bank’s global auto report, released Thursday, says Canadian auto loan approvals have increased to the highest level since April 2008. Study author Carlos Gomes said this provides evidence that credit markets are starting to thaw after freezing up in response to the financial crisis in late 2008.

This has been aided by Ottawa’s move to buy up to $12 billion in securities backed in part by loans and leases on vehicles, which was launched last month, Gomes said.

He said the withdrawal of some major lenders from the auto-loan business over the past year had dampened credit availability, although the Bank of Canada indicates auto loans at chartered banks in Canada have been readily available.