Thursday

UK mortgage sales higher, rates may rise.

Strong retail sales and an unexpectedly big rise in British mortgage lending suggest three interest rate hikes since August have failed to curb consumer spending. Another rate hike may be coming due to this new development. The Bank of England said mortgage lending rose more than 10 billion pounds ($20.1 billion) in February versus forecasts of 9.4 billion. Mortgage approvals held steady at 119,000 when analysts had expected a fall. A survey by the Confederation of British Industry showed retail sales volumes rose at their fastest pace in more than two years this month, twice as fast as expected. The strong lending performance was echoed elsewhere, with the number of approvals, often seen as a good indicator of future demand in the property sector, holding up pretty well during the month. The number of approvals was unchanged at 119,000, just ahead of market expectations.The housing market is a key factor in BoE rate decisions. Rate setters are hoping that the three interest rate increases since last August, which have taken the key repo rate up to 5.25 pct, will rein in consumption and inflationary pressures stemming from a buoyant housing market. Financial markets are fully pricing in another quarter point increase to 5.50 percent.

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