The consumer prices index has remained unchanged at 2.8 per cent in March, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. The largest upward contribution came from the recreation and culture sector where there were price rises for audio-visual equipment and books, newspapers and stationary. The largest downward contributions came from furniture & furnishings, motor fuels and meat. RPI rose from 3.2 per cent to 3.3 per cent in March.
The average UK house price rose 1.9 per cent over the 12 months to February, according to data released today by the Office for National Statistics. The average house price was £233,000 in February, down 2.1 per cent from £238,000 in January. Excluding London and the South East, the average house price in February was £186,000, down from £189,000 in January. On a yearly basis, house prices outside of London and the South East are 1.6 per cent higher than in February 2012, at £183,000.The average house price in England in February was £242,000, down 2 per cent from £247,000 in January but up 3.4 per cent from £234,000 in February 2012. House prices rose 5.2 per cent from £152,000 in February 2012 to £160,000 in February this year, while prices were relatively stagnant in the year to February 2013, hovering around £177,000 to £178,000. Prices in Northern Ireland fell 8.6 per cent in the 12 month to February. The average price for properties bought by first-time buyers increased by 1.6 per cent to £173,000 in the 12 months to February 2013. The average price for properties bought by exiting owners increase by 2.1 per cent to £269,000 in the 12 months to February.
Activity in the UK housing market has hit a three-year high, surveyors report, offering hopes of a revival that would help the economic recovery. Chartered surveyors handled an average of 17.4 home sales over the last three months, according to the latest monthly survey by industry body RICS (Rotal Institute Chartered Surveyors). That was the highest number reported since March 2010 and meant sales rates have been rising for three consecutive months which could be due to the improving affordability of mortgages. RICS said the survey pointed to house prices now having been relatively stable across the UK for the past six months.
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee has decided to hold base rate at 0.5 per cent and its programme of quantitative easing at £375bn. The base rate has now been held at 0.5 per cent for over four years, with the MPC first cutting the benchmark rate to its record-low in March 2009. QE has been at £375bn since July, when the MPC voted to increase the size of the programme by £50bn from £325bn.The minutes from last month’s MPC meeting showed the committee remained split over whether to launch another round of QE while it voted unanimously to hold interests rates at their current level. BoE governor Sir Mervyn King, deputy governor Charlie Bean and Paul Tucker voted for another £25bn of QE last month.
Banks and buildings societies are likely to make fresh cuts to mortgage rates, according to the Bank of England. The latest poll of lenders found that many mortgage deals became “significantly” cheaper between January and March. Lenders also indicated they would drop further in the second quarter. The availability of mortgages has also increased, BoE data found. Lenders suggest the trend will continue.