Approvals for house purchases dropped by about 2,000 on the previous month to 45,166, the Bank of England reported, reversing much of the pick-up seen following December’s 20-month low as the snow hit.
The level of loans tallies with falling house prices, said Nida Ali, economic adviser to the Ernst & Young ITEM Club. “A fall in mortgage approvals, from already depressed levels, certainly isn’t a good sign for the housing market,” she said.
The weak figure came as analysts at Morgan Stanley predicted property values will drop 10pc by the end of 2012 and warned that falls in UK house prices are likely to begin hurting the profitability of the country’s largest banks over the next six months.
Lloyds Banking Group will be the lender most affected by the fall in home values, according to analysts who forecast that more than a quarter of the bank’s mortgage book, or £90bn, will be negative equity by the end of next year.
The figures for the UK’s other main lenders were expected to be somewhat lower, with total mortgage loans in negative equity by December 2012 expected to be no more than £11bn for Royal Bank of Scotland and £6.1bn for Barclays.
The forecast is based on a gloomy outlook for the UK economy and continuing restrictions in the availability of borrowing.
The Council of Mortgage Lenders yesterday predicted that mortgage lending will increase in 2011 for the first time in five years.
The trade body expects net lending, which strips out redemptions and repayments, to come in at £9bn this year, compared to £8bn in 2010 – but still just a fraction of the £110bn net lending seen in 2006, the last year to see lending rise.
Separately, lending to consumers rose more than expected in April as people flexed their plastic, the Bank figures revealed.
The biggest rise in credit card borrowing in 14 months – an increase of £347m – may have been tied to people hitting the shops over the month’s run of bank holidays. In contrast to their apparent dampening effect on the housing market, the extra holiday saw retailers enjoy a boost as shoppers stocked up.
Coupled with personal loans and overdrafts, the card borrowing helped consumer credit rise a net £504m overall.