LONDON (Reuters) – British lenders approved the most mortgages in more than 13 years in October, Bank of England data showed on Monday, suggesting no let-up yet in a post-coronavirus lockdown bounce-back in the country’s housing market.
But the figures also underscored a broader wariness about day-to-day borrowing among many consumers – whose spending helps drive the economy – as the country was hit by a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
Mortgage approvals for house purchase hit 97,532, up from 92,091 in September and higher than all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists.
Britain’s housing market has gone into top gear in recent months, propelled by demand for bigger properties from people who were locked down at home in the spring and an emergency tax cut for buyers that is due to expire in March.
The housing recovery looks increasingly at odds with a renewed slowdown in the economy and a rise in unemployment that looks set to peak only next year.
The BoE data showed net consumer lending fell by 590 million pounds ($786 million) on the month, much of it due to repayment of credit card debt.
Lending to consumers was down 5.6% compared with a year ago, the biggest such drop since monthly records began in 1994.
Household savings rose by 12.3 billion pounds, the biggest monthly increase since May.
“A reduction in the use of consumer credit and another increase in savings suggests many are bracing themselves for further economic uncertainty,” Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at insurer Aviva, said.
As well as a second wave of coronavirus restrictions, Britain’s economy is also facing the risk of a trade shock if London and Brussels fail to strike a post-Brexit trade deal by the end of the year.
($1 = 0.7504 pounds)
(Editing by David Milliken)