April 26, 2019 / 9:23 AM / a month ago

UK banks' mortgage approvals hit nine-month high in March - UK Finance

FILE PHOTO: A row of houses are seen in London, Britain June 3, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters) - British banks last month approved the greatest number of mortgages since June 2018, a tentative sign that the worst of the housing market’s slowdown ahead of Brexit may have passed, data showed on Friday.

Seasonally-adjusted data from the UK Finance industry body showed banks approved 39,980 mortgages in March, up 6 percent on a year ago and compared with 39,207 in February.

The survey added to some early signs that the housing market may be picking up a little after slowing markedly last year.

Earlier this month the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’s gauge of house prices picked up for the first time since July, although it said the uncertainty around Brexit was likely to keep weighing on the market.

The United Kingdom was due to have left the EU on March 29, though Prime Minister Theresa May has been unable to get her divorce deal approved by parliament. Now the new deadline is Oct. 31, more than three years since the 2016 referendum.

UK Finance said lending to consumers expanded by 4.1 percent in March, the strongest growth rate since June and up from 3.5 percent in February.

Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by Alistair Smout; andy.bruce@thomsonreuters.com; +442075423484; Reuters Messaging: andy.bruce.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net

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