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LONDON (Reuters) - British banks approved the highest number of mortgages in almost two years in January as some investors sought to snap up properties before a tax on buy-to-let properties due in April, industry figures showed on Wednesday.
The British Bankers' Association said its members approved 47,509 loans for house purchase in January on a seasonally adjusted basis - its highest since February 2014. That was up from a seven-month low of 43,660 in December and 27 percent higher than the same time last year.
Net credit card lending rose by 262 million pounds in January, compared with a 64 million pounds increase in December.
"The start of the year has seen a significant rise in mortgage borrowing. It seems that this has been driven, in part, by borrowers looking to get ahead of the increases in stamp duty for buy-to-let and second home buyers scheduled to come into effect in April," BBA chief economist Richard Woolhouse said.
Britain's finance minister George Osborne announced in a budget statement in November that buy-to-let investors will have to pay a 3 percentage-point higher rate of stamp duty than residential buyers from April, as the government tried to cool a market that was heating up.
The BBA data do not include lending by Britain's mutually owned building societies, but the figures serve as a good leading indicator for more comprehensive Bank of England figures typically released around a week later.
Reporting by Ana Nicolaci da Costa, editing by Andy Bruce