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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 March, 2005, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
UK housing market 'bottoming out'
Numbers of mortgages approved
The number of mortgages approved rose to their highest level for four months in February, new figures show.

According to the British Bankers' Association (BBA), 47,365 home loans were granted during the month, up nearly 14,000 on January's figure.

The BBA said the figures could indicate the recent slowdown in the UK housing market could be "bottoming out".

However, February's figure represents a 35% fall from the 72,339 home loans recorded for the same month last year.

Overall, gross mortgage lending rose from 11.6bn to 11.9bn between January and February the BBA said.

"Whilst mortgage lending is clearly running at levels below those a year earlier, February's figures indicate that the declining trend seen during 2004 may be bottoming out," David Dooks, BBA director of statistics, said.

House hunters

The BBA figures support the findings of the most recent UK housing market survey.

On Monday, property website Hometrack said that house hunters were being lured back into the UK property market by lower prices.

Hometrack noted that the number of buyers registered on estate agents' books rose by 6.2% on the month, only the second time that the number of buyers registered has risen since May last year.

Nevertheless, Hometrack said that average asking prices fell 0.1% during March.

Credit slowdown

Meanwhile, demand for consumer credit weakened in February the BBA said.

The amount of money outstanding on credit cards increased by 69m during the month - the smallest rise since May 2002.

Overall, new borrowing on credit cards stood at 6.8bn, well down on the average for the previous six month.

Mr Dooks said lower levels of credit card borrowing reflected slow retail sales at the start of 2005.

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