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Mortgage lending bounces up 24%

Gross mortgage lending bounced 24% in May, the Council of Mortgage Lenders has reported.

It stood at an estimated £12.2bn, up from £9.9bn in April and also up 13% from May last year (£10.8bn).

But the bounce could have been a seesaw rather than the first certain sign of sustainable growth, the CML warned.

CML chief economist Bob Pannell said: “The Government has recently announced a number of measures to counter the adverse effects from the Eurozone crisis. It clearly senses an opportunity to bolster home ownership and housing activity, and we look forward to hearing more details about the ‘funding for lending’ initiative which seeks to deliver this.

“Meanwhile, mortgage lending continues to seesaw, albeit against a broadly flat market. Unfortunately, a number of one-off factors, such as the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, are set to distort market indicators over the coming months, and it may be the autumn before we can more accurately gauge the state of the market.”

Michael Coogan, ex-CML boss and now adviser at Deloitte, said: “The bounce-back in gross lending in May is a welcome sign that borrowers are still keen to transact. The new ‘funding for lending’ scheme should provide new opportunities for consumers to access the market in an affordable way. While short-term lending trends are difficult to call, the market improvement in 2012 is set to continue.”

Richard Sexton, director of e.surv chartered surveyors, said: “The big monthly increase in lending disguises that the mortgage market is struggling to get into fifth gear.

“April was such a weak month that May was always going to see a big jump in lending. Banks still have their hands tied by increasing funding costs and capital buffer rules imposed by regulators. And they are terrified of the seismic impact a collapse in the eurozone could have on their balance sheets. They are really struggling.

“Banks have shipped their increased costs on to consumers like a hot potato. As ever, first-time buyers and lower income borrowers are bearing the brunt of the banks’ problems. Lending to borrowers with small deposits has fallen for four out of the last five months.

“This lack of mortgages for first-time buyers has left great swathes of them stuck in rented accommodation, which is a black hole for personal finances. However, in the absence of a euro disaster, the recent news on Government support for banks and the decision to allow them to release some capital reserves could give lenders the confidence to relax terms over the second half of 2012.