Mortgage lending started the year on a strong note with advances reaching the highest figure on record for January, the Council of Mortgage Lenders said yesterday.
A total of £23.03 billion was lent during the month, nearly a third higher than the amount advanced during January 2005, and the highest figure for the first month of the year since the group began keeping records in 1964. But despite the strong year-on-year figure, lending was still 14 per cent below the £26.91 billion advanced in December and was the lowest figure since May last year, as the market experienced its traditional seasonal slowdown.
The CML said lending typically weakened around the start of the year because house-buying activity slowed down during the winter.
But it added that January's figure was still strong, reflecting consumers' confidence in the property market, and expectations that interest rates would remain stable.
Michael Coogan, CML director-general, said: "Mortgage lending in all categories has been strong in recent months. This reflects the fact that consumers are feeling more certain about the future of the housing market and confident that house prices are unlikely to fall.
"The mortgage market looks set for continued steady growth against a backdrop of pretty positive economic conditions."
The British Bankers' Association also released figures showing that mortgage lending had slowed during the first month of the year.
It said net lending, which strips out redemptions and repayments, by the major banks reached £4.61 billion during January, down from £5.34 billion in December, but only slightly below the average for the previous six months.
But it was less optimistic about the figures, saying the fact that January's rise was close to the recent trend suggested stronger growth seen towards the end of 2005 may not have established a sustained upturn in lending.
Credit card lending weakened during the month, with people increasing their plastic debt by just £111 million, well down on December's rise of £223 million, according to the BBA. But borrowing through loans and overdrafts soared to £609 million, compared with December's subdued rise of just £78 million.