September 1, 2014 / 8:32 AM / 3 years ago

UK mortgage approvals fall as expected in July

LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - British mortgage approvals fell slightly in July, matching expectations, according to official data on Monday that pointed to some moderation in the housing market.

The Bank of England said mortgage approvals numbered 66,569 last month, down from 67,085 in June.

Analysts had forecast a fall in approvals to 66,000.

Monthly mortgage approvals are still short of the 90,000 level seen before the 2008 financial crisis, and below a recent peak of more than 76,000 in January.

Recent surveys of the housing market have offered mixed signals about the strength and durability of the upturn.

The British Bankers' Association reported last week that net mortgage lending by its members fell to a six-month low in July, but mortgage lender Nationwide reported on Friday that house prices were up 11 percent on the year.

BoE Governor Mark Carney has said that housing is the biggest threat to Britain's economic recovery, given the risks of borrowers taking on too much debt.

As well as the more exhaustive checks that banks are required to make on people seeking a mortgage which came into effect in April, the BoE announced in June that it was taking measures to prevent a build-up of risky debt.

The BoE has been seeking to cool the mortgage market since January when it refocused its Funding for Lending Scheme away from mortgage lending and dedicated it exclusively to business lending.

The BoE said lending to non-financial businesses rose by 1.2 billion pounds in July, compared with a fall of 3.9 billion pounds in June. But lending to small businesses alone fell by 400 million pounds, compared with 200 million pounds in June.

Unsecured lending to consumers rose by 1.1 billion pounds, up from 700 million pounds and far exceeding a Reuters poll forecast for a 550 million pound increase.

The BoE's preferred gauge of money supply, M4 excluding intermediate other financial corporations, rose 0.2 percent on the month, taking the annual growth rate to 3.8 percent. (Reporting by Andy Bruce and Li-Mei Hoang)

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