Are UK house prices rising again?

Today we get to look at the money supply and credit situation in the UK  But before we get there yesterday brought news to warm a central banker’s heart. From Zoopla.

The annual rate of growth edged up to 2.7% in June, after rising 0.2% on the month. Price growth is highly localised, but there is little evidence of material declines at regional or city levels, although a small proportion of local areas are seeing price declines of up to -0.2%.

If the Bank of England had any bells they would be ringing right now with Governor Bailey stroking a cat whilst smiling. As to why? We are told this.

Buyer demand has risen strongly since housing markets reopened, as shown on the purple bar in the chart below. Although the number of new homes being listed for sale has also risen, it hasn’t increased by the same margin. This creates an imbalance of low supply and high demand – and contributes to house price growth.

So simply more buyers than sellers then. To be specific the purple bar in their chart shows a 25.3% imbalance.

This imbalance is most stark in cities in the North of England, including Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield, and it is notable that these are in the top six cities for levels of annual house price growth.

I note a mention of Gloucestershire seeing a mini boom. The 20 cities sampled show the nearest ( Bristol) being one of the weaker areas albeit having more demand than 2019 unlike Belfast and Edinburgh. Interestingly London looks quite strong and is fifth on the list. Another house price rally in London would be a turn up for the books and here is Zoopla’s explanation.

The biggest change in the market spurred by the Chancellor’s announcement of a stamp duty holiday for England and Northern Ireland has been seen in London. Sales jumped by 27% in the weeks after the change. Given the higher average house prices in London and the South East, these are where the largest benefits from the stamp duty holiday will be felt. The stamp duty holiday will continue to support demand in these higher value markets.

Have they managed to bail it out again? Well it would appear that they intend to keep trying. From the Financial Reporter.

The Government is reportedly drawing up plans to extend the Help to Buy scheme due to Covid-19 delays.

According to the FT, ministers have been asked to extend the Scheme beyond its planned December deadline to support buyers whose purchases have been delayed by the pandemic.

The scheme is due to end in April 2021 and a new version of the scheme will run from April 2021 to March 2023, for first-time buyers only. If the original scheme ends when planned, sales transactions will need to be agreed by December 2020.

Help to Buy seems to be covered by The Eagles in Hotel California.

“Relax”, said the night man
“We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave”

There is another route funded by the Bank of England and Nicola Duke or @NicTrades has kindly highlighted it.

I got my first mortgage in 1997 and the 2 yr fixed rate was 7.7% Today I got a fixed rate at 1.13% Amazing………..2yrs – the 5 yr is 1.3 and 10yr 1.44

As the band Middle of the Road put it.

Ooh wee chirpy chirpy cheep cheep
Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep chirp

Mortgages

This morning’s Bank of England release would also have cheered Governor Andrew Bailey.

On net, households borrowed an additional £1.9 billion secured on their homes. This was higher than the £1.3 billion in May but weak compared to an average of £4.1 billion in the six months to February 2020. The increase on the month reflected both more new borrowing by households, and lower repayments. Gross new borrowing was £15.8 billion in June, below the pre-Covid February level of £23.4 billion.

Since the introduction of the Funding for Lending Scheme in the summer of 2012 they have been targeting net mortgage lending in my opinion. This time around they have kept is positive and as you can see it appears to be rising again. It is much less than earlier this year but after the credit crunch we saw negative net lending for some time. Even when the FLS was introduce it took until 2013 for there to be a return to positive net mortgage lending.

Approvals still look weak.

The number of mortgages approved also increased in June. The number of mortgage approvals for house purchase increased strongly, to 40,000, up from 9,300 in May. Nevertheless, approvals were 46% below the February level of 73,700 (Chart 3). Approvals for remortgage (which capture remortgaging with a different lender) have also increased, to 36,900; but they remain 30% lower than in February.

At these levels remortgage if you can is my suggestion, although not advice as that has a specific meaning in law.

Consumer Credit

The Governor will be chipper about these numbers as well and presenting them at the monthly morning meeting will not have been potentially career ending unlike the last few.

Household’s consumer credit borrowing recovered a little in June, following three particularly weak months (Chart 2). But it remains significantly weaker than pre-Covid. On net, people repaid £86 million of consumer credit in June following repayments totalling £15.6 billion over the previous three months. The small net repayment contrasts with an average of £1.1 billion of additional borrowing per month in the 18 months to February 2020. The weakness in consumer credit net flows in recent months meant that the annual growth rate was -3.6%, the weakest since the series began in 1994.

We have discovered ( via large revisions) that these numbers are not accurate to £86 million so substantial repayments have been replaced by flatlining and the junior at the meeting would do well to emphasise this.

The smaller net repayment compared to May reflected an increase in gross borrowing. Gross borrowing was £17.7 billion, up from £13.6 billion in May, but this was still below the average £25.5 billion a month in the six months to February 2020. Repayments on consumer borrowing were broadly stable in June, at £18.1 billion, below their pre-Covid February level of £24.6 billion.

So gross borrowing is picking up.

As a point of note it is the credit card sector which really felt the squeeze.

Within total consumer credit, on net there was a further small repayment of credit card debt (£248 million) and a small amount of additional other borrowing (£162 million). The annual growth rate for both credit cards and other borrowing fell back a little further, to -11.6% and 0.2% respectively.

Maybe it is because in a world of official ZIRP (a Bank Rate of 0.1%) the reality is this.

The cost of credit card borrowing fell from 18.36% in May to 17.94% in June, also the lowest rate since the series began in 2016.

By the way if we switch to the quoted series the overdraft rate is 31,53%. Mentioning that at the Bank of England will be career ending as it was an enquiry at the FCA ( boss one Andrew Bailey) that was so poor it drove them higher as opposed to lower.

Comment

Can the UK housing market leap Lazarus style from its grave one more time? Well the UK establishment are doing everything that they can to prop it up. Meanwhile the business lending that the policies are supposed to boost is doing this.

Overall, PNFCs borrowed an additional £0.4 billion of loans in June. Strong borrowing by small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) was offset by repayment by large businesses.

The borrowing by smaller businesses would ordinarily be really good except we know a lot of it will be out of desperation and of course as the bit I have highlighted shows is nothing to do with the Bank of England.

Small and medium sized businesses continued borrowing a significant amount from banks. In June, they drew down an extra £10.2 billion in loans, on net, as gross borrowing remained strong. This was weaker than in May (£18.0 billion), but very strong compared to the past. Before May, the largest amount of net borrowing by SMEs was £0.6 billion, in September 2016. The strong flow in June meant that the annual growth rate rose further, to 17.4%, the strongest on record (Chart 5). This strength is likely to reflect businesses drawing down loans arranged through government-supported schemes such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.

This bit is really curious.

Large non-financial businesses, in contrast, repaid a significant amount of loans in June. The net repayment, of £16.7 billion, was the largest since the series began in 2011 and followed a net repayment of £13.0 billion in May.

So we see a complex picture in an economy which is now awash with cash. If we switch to the money supply then it ( M4 or Broad Money) has risen by 11.9% over the past year. Of this around £174 billion has come in the last four months.

Me on The Investing Channel