LONDON (Reuters) - Lending by British banks to consumers grew last month at its fastest rate in more than eight years, the British Bankers’ Association said on Thursday, figures which are likely to catch the attention of the Bank of England.
Overall consumer credit lending rose by 5.7 percent in the 12 months to November, the fastest rise since March 2007.
The BoE has said it is watching credit growth as Britain’s economic recovery goes into its third year. But officials say they do not believe Britain’s recovery is over-reliant on borrowing and they have not yet introduced higher capital requirements for banks.
Howard Archer, an economist with IHS Global Insight, noted the faster consumer lending figures came a day after official data showed a fall in Britain’s household savings ratio to its equal lowest rate since 1963.
“This will fuel concern that consumers are borrowing more and saving less to finance their spending, which is likely a consequence of relatively high consumer confidence and extended low interest rates,” Archer said.
The Bank of England has kept interest rates at 0.5 percent since early 2009 and pricing in financial markets suggests that investors think it could keep them there for another year. Most economists have said they expect a first rate hike in May 2016.
The BBA figures showed that banks’ net credit card lending rose to 318 million pounds from 149 million pounds in October, while lending for personal loans and overdrafts also increased.
Mortgage approvals for house purchase totalled 44,960 last month, up from 37,407 in November last year but down a touch from 45,463 in October, the BBA said.
“These statistics show the continued strength of the mortgage market, with monthly new lending higher than at any time over the past seven years,” BBA chief economist Richard Woolhouse said.
Gross mortgage borrowing of 12.8 billion pounds in November was 28 percent higher than a year earlier, the BBA said.
Woolhouse also said net lending to companies was expanding, particularly in the wholesale and retail sectors, as businesses took advantage of record low interest rates.
The BBA figures are a good guide for trends in broader Bank of England lending data, which will next be published on Jan. 4. The BBA numbers exclude lending by mutually owned building societies, which accounts for almost a third of mortgages.
Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Richard Balmforth
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