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LONDON (Reuters) - British mortgage approvals hit their highest level since January last month, but there was a sharp fall in consumer lending, the Bank of England said on Wednesday, after releasing the figures a day earlier than scheduled.
The data had been due for release at 0930 GMT on Thursday, but the BoE said it was formally releasing it on Wednesday as it had briefly appeared on the central bank's website earlier in the day, before being taken down.
Mortgage approvals for house purchase rose to 52,982 in October from an upwardly revised 50,415 in September, above economists' forecasts of an increase to 51,500.
"Mortgage activity seems to have improved a touch in the past few weeks, partially boosted by the BoE's Funding for Lending programme," said Newedge Strategy analyst Annalisa Piazza.
"That said, the level of activity would remain consistent with a relatively sluggish housing market in the coming months."
Net mortgage lending, which lags behind approvals, increased by a smaller-than-expected 199 million pounds in October, down from a 582 million pound rise in September.
And unsecured consumer lending fell by the biggest margin since December last year, dropping by some 463 million pounds after a 1.103 billion pound increase in September. Economists had expected a 400 million pound rise.
The BoE has been trying to boost lending to businesses and households via a Funding for Lending Scheme launched several months ago, which offers banks cheap credit if they lend in turn to the rest of the economy.
The first detailed figures on its take-up will be released by the BoE on Monday.
The BoE said that October money supply data would be released at its scheduled time of 0930 GMT on Thursday.
Reporting by David Milliken and Li-mei Hoang; Editing by Catherine Evans