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EDITIONS
 Friday, 3 January, 2003, 12:58 GMT
Growth in personal debt slows
Oxford Street sale shoppers
Are shoppers tightening their purses?
Consumer borrowing has continued to slow, hitting its lowest level for more than a year, according to official figures.

The Bank of England said the increase in consumer credit fell from 1.8bn ($2.9bn) in October to 1.4bn in November, adding fuel to suggestions that retailers suffered poor sales in the run-up to Christmas.

Mortgage lending also slowed slightly in November, although remained close to record levels.

The figures tally with a number of recent surveys on High Street sales and house prices, suggesting varying degrees of weakness.

Credit cards rise

The Bank of England's figures for consumer credit were the lowest since August 2001.

(This) supports other recent data that suggests retail spending was modest pre-Christmas but that the housing market remains buoyant

John Butler, HSBC

Consumer spending has been a key component in upholding the UK's economy in recent months.

But fears that this has slowed were compounded this week by figures from the CBI, indicating the worst pre-Christmas sales growth for more than ten years.

Even so, credit card lending hit 10.1bn in November according to the Bank of England figures, up from 9.8bn in October.

Mortgage record continues

Mortgage lending slowed by a fraction in November, from 20.5bn in October to 20.3bn.

But the November figure is still the second highest recorded, and is 40% higher than the level for November 2001.

"That level of activity is consistent with house price inflation staying around 25% over the next few months," said John Butler, an economist at HSBC.

"Today's data supports other recent data that suggests retail spending was modest pre-Christmas but that the housing market remains buoyant."

Figures from the Nationwide building society suggested house prices rose by 25% in 2002 and it predicted a 10% rise in 2003.

However, the CBI said only 34% of stores had seen a rise in sales in the run-up to Christmas, compared with 37% of shops a year ago.

The minus 3% balance was the first time a negative figure had been reported in December since 1992.

Will the UK economy feel the impact of the US slowdown?

Economic indicators

Analysis

UK rate decisions
See also:

02 Jan 03 | Business
24 Dec 02 | Business
28 Dec 02 | Business
27 Nov 02 | Business
22 Dec 02 | Business
19 Dec 02 | Business
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