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Housing market activity has weakened sharply over the last two months. Indeed, figures this week likely will reveal that mortgage approvals plunged in April and that house price growth slowed in May. The increase in stamp duty for buy-to-let purchases at the start of April and Brexit risk, however, entirely explain the slowdown.
News that the U.K.'s departure from the E.U. has been delayed by six months, unless MPs ratify the existing deal sooner, appears to have done little to revive confidence among businesses.
Many observers hoped that the silver lining of a slowdown in house price growth this year would be that more first-time buyers could step onto the first rung of the housing ladder. Instead, purchasing a first home has become even harder for FTBs with modest deposits.
Mortgage lender Halifax reported yesterday that the rate of increase in house prices has picked up since the summer.
The process of refinancing existing mortgages at ever-lower interest rates has been a boon for the economy in recent years.
The Bank of England's stress tests highlighted that banks have made further progress in strengthening their balance sheets over the last year. But while banks have retreated from taking risk onto their balance sheets, others have stepped in to fill the void.
August's mortgage lending data from the trade body U.K. Finance provided more evidence that the pick-up in housing market activity in Q2 simply reflected a shift from Q1 due to the disruptive weather, rather than the emergence of a sustainable upward trend.
The MPC surprised nobody yesterday by voting unanimously to keep Bank Rate at 0.75% and to maintain the stocks of gilt and corporate bond purchases at £435B and £10B, respectively.
The economy's recovery from the 2008/09 recession has been weaker than after the previous two downturns partly because households have not depleted housing equity to fund consumption.
House purchase mortgage approvals by the main high street banks continued to recover in June, rising to a nine-month high of 40.5K, from 39.5K in May. June approvals, however, merely matched their postreferendum average, and the chances of a more substantial recovery are slim.
One of the most surprising features of the economic recovery has been that households have not responded to the surge in house prices by releasing housing equity to fund consumption. Housing equity rose to 4.2 times annual disposable incomes in 2015, up from 3.7 in 2012. It has more than doubled over the last two decades.
July's mortgage approvals data from the BBA brought clear evidence that households have held off making major financial commitments as a result of the Brexit vote. Following a 5% month-to-month fall in June, approvals fell a further 5.3% in July, leaving them at their lowest level since January 2015 and down 19% year-over-year.
The recent pick-up in mortgage approvals is another sign that households are unperturbed by the risk of a no-deal Brexit.
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