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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 11:21 GMT
Consumer appetite for debt wanes
Credit cards
Spend on credit cards continues to slow down.
The appetite of UK consumers for new debt has fallen to its lowest level for 11 years.

Bank of England figures show that in November, the growth rate of consumer credit - such as credit cards and bank loans - fell to just 9.8% a year.

That was the slowest growth recorded since September 1994 and a fall from the recent peak of 16.1% in 2002.

Unsecured borrowing rose in November by its smallest amount for nearly five years, at just 900m.

The Bank of England said this was mainly due to a drop in credit card spending, which it said was 0.3bn lower in November than in October.

Outstanding debt

Debt in the UK stands at 1,148bn, 83% of which is in the form of mortgages.

In 2004 the total amount of outstanding debt reached one trillion pounds for the first time, prompting widespread comment that UK consumers were borrowing far too much.

Fears that people would be unable to repay their debts seem to have been one factor behind the recent slowdown.

But there has also been a significant change in behaviour by shoppers.

Credit cards have been rapidly overtaken by debit cards as the preferred type of plastic card used by shoppers.

Debit cards now account for two-thirds of all spending on plastic.

Last year, the Association of Payment Clearing Services (APCS) predicted that by the end of 2006, spending on credit cards would fail to grow for the first time since they were introduced in the UK in the 1960s.

Mortgage approvals

Other figures from the Bank of England point to a continued pick-up in the property market this coming year.

2006 will see the first annual rise in activity since 2002, after three consecutive years of decline
RICS spokesman

The number of new mortgages approved, but not yet lent, rose in November to 115,000.

That was the highest monthly figure since May last year.

It was also a significant revival since the sudden slump in the property market a year ago drove down approvals to a low of 75,000 in November 2004.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) predicts that 2006 will see the first annual rise in activity since 2002, after three consecutive years of decline.

"The renewed interest in the market is evident not only through these mortgage approval numbers, but in the number of would-be buyers making enquires as captured in the RICS housing market survey, which rose for the sixth consecutive month in November," said an RICS spokesman.

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