The number of new home loans approved in the U.K. fell for the fourth consecutive month in April, hitting a seven-month low, a sign the country's housing market may be cooling as consumers pare back spending.
Mortgage approvals fell in April to 64,645 from 66,043 a month earlier, the Bank of England said Wednesday, while mortgage lending, net of repayments, declined to 2.7 billion pounds ($3.5 billion), its lowest level in a year, from GBP3.1 billion in March.
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The data could signal further weakness in Britain's economy, which already slowed sharply in the first quarter, as rising inflation and meager wage growth prompted consumers to cut back spending. The economy grew 0.2% on the quarter in the three months through March.
The slowdown comes as voters prepare to go to the polls on June 8 in a general election, called by Prime Minister Theresa May in the hope of increasing her parliamentary majority and strengthening her hand in the upcoming Brexit negotiations with the European Union, which officially began in March.
Wednesday's data showed unsecured borrowing by consumers continued to rise in April, highlighting how households have been taking on debt to offset the squeeze on income.
Consumers borrowed GBP1.5 billion in April, net of repayments, in personal loans, overdrafts and on credit cards, the Bank of England said, slightly below analysts' expectations, but keeping the annual rate of growth in consumer credit above 10%.
BOE officials have warned banks to keep a close eye on borrowers to ensure they aren't taking on loans they can't repay.
Write to Wiktor Szary at Wiktor.Szary@wsj.com and Jason Douglas at Jason.Douglas@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 31, 2017 04:54 ET (08:54 GMT)