One measure of the level of activity in the housing market is the number of mortgage approvals for house purchase. While a small number of approvals will not result in transactions because house purchases can ‘fall through’, the current number of approvals is, nonetheless, an extremely good guide to transaction levels in the near future. The seasonally-adjusted approval number for January 2010 reported by the Bank of England was 48,198. This has drawn a fair amount of attention because it was the lowest since May last year and it was the second monthly fall in a row.
The increase in mortgage approval numbers seen in the second half of last year represented an increase in housing demand and helps in understanding why house prices rose over the same period. But, we should perhaps put January’s approval figure into further context. 2008 saw mortgage approval numbers collapse to only 451,350 (or roughly 37,600 per month) from 1,323,609 (or roughly 110,300 per month) in 2007. The average monthly number of approvals across the last decade was 95,000 – roughly double January’s number.
So what a trawl through the figures shows is that the current level of approvals is by historic standards low, but still above the incredibly low levels seen during 2008. But, more than this, it suggests that we perhaps need to get accustomed to relatively low mortgage approval numbers. With financial institutions and households alike needing to remain cautious and rebuild their respective financial positions, we should expect ‘new norms’, so far as activity levels are concerned, for quite some time to come.
UK mortgage approvals fall for second month in January: BOE RTT News (1/3/10)
Mortgage approvals drop sharply BBC News (1/3/10)
UK mortgage approvals drop to eight-month low Bloomberg.com, Scott Hamilton (1/3/10)
Mortgage lending dives after end of stamp duty holiday Independent on Sunday, James Thompson (14/3/10)
Housing market turnover falls despite record low rates on new mortgages Financial Times, Norma Cohen (13/3/10)
Fears grow that new mortgage drought could hit house prices Times Online, James Charles (13/3/10)
Mortgage approval numbers and other lending data are available from the Bank of England’s statistics publication, Monetary and Financial Statistics (Bankstats) (See Table A5.4.)
- What factors do you think will have contributed to the fall in mortgage approvals in 2008? And what factors might explain the slight recovery in the second half of 2009?
- What factors do you think will be important in determining mortgage approvals in the months ahead?
- How might changes in the number of mortgage approvals be expected to affect house prices?
- What role might financial institutions, like banks and building societies, play in affecting UK house price growth in 2010? How might their influence compare with that in the period 2008/9?
Over the past year, the world has seen a massive change in the fortunes of Dubai. At one time, it was as if Dubai was immune from the credit crunch. Property prices rose and then rose again. Credit checks barely existed and anyone seemed to be able to get on the property ladder, including a large number of foreigners. Indeed, 75% of property in Dubai is owned by foreigners.
However, those living their dream in Dubai have entered their worst nightmare. Property prices have already fallen by 50% and further falls are predicted. Debt levels are at about $85 billion, although some suggest they could be closer to $100 billion. Oil prices have fallen as a result of the situation in Dubai, although they have recovered slightly in the past few days, partly boosted by an announcement by the United Arab Emirates central bank that it was providing additional liquidity to banks. Share prices across the world have also been adversely affected, but these also have experienced a recovery.
Dubai has acknowledged the extent of its debts by asking to delay repayments, but whilst some hope that the worst has passed, others are speculating that further debts may be revealed. Dubai asked for a six-month repayment freeze on debt issued by Dubai World and its unit Nakheel, a property developer. The fear of Dubai defaulting on its debts has continued to affect global markets and how quickly Dubai is able to recover may depend on the generosity of Abu Dhabi, its oil rich neighbour. It might be that Abu Dhabi only offer help in exchange for more control over Dubai.
Read the following articles and try answering the questions about this new example of a global issue that highlights the increasing interdependence of economies across the world.
What spoiled the party in Dubai? BBC News (27/11/09)
Dubai says not responsible for Dubai World debt Reuters, Rania Oteify and Tamara Walid (30/11/09)
Oil jumps on positive US data, waning Dubai worries AFP (30/11/09)
Dubai debt crisis should be a lesson to us all Times Online, John Waples (29/11/09)
US shares slide over Dubai fears BBC News (27/11/09)
European shares fall on Dubai fears, banks slip Reuters, Atal Prakash (30/11/09)
Dubai Debt Worries CNBC (30/11/09)
- What are the main causes behind the debt crisis in Dubai?
- If Abu Dhabi does step in, what do you think it will demand in return?
- Explain why oil prices have suffered as a result of Dubai’s debt crisis. Why have they recovered slightly? Illustrate this using demand and supply – don’t forget to consider elasticity!
- What lessons should we learn from this debt crisis to prevent it from happening again?
- Following Dubai’s debt crisis, share prices fell around the world. What’s the link between debt levels and share prices?
- Having listened to the CNBC report, do you think that tourism is enough to rescue Dubai or will intervention be required?
According to the Nationwide building society, house prices rose in March for the first time in 16 months. Does this mean that the decline in UK house prices is over? Or is this just a ‘blip’ in a continuing downward movement? The following articles look at the causal factors influencing house prices.
UK house prices rise first time in 16 months Times Online (2/4/09)
House prices show slight increase in March Guardian (2/4/09)
Surprise bounce to March house prices Nationwide press release (2/4/09)
- Identify the factors on the demand and supply side that have caused the fall in house prices since mid 2007.
- What have been the main reasons why house prices rose in March 2009?.
- How likely is it that house prices will now continue to rise?
- What role does speculation play in the movement of house prices? What role is speculation likely to play in the next few months?
Changes in house prices could be considered a national obsession in the UK and recent speculation about a property crash or a crash in the buy-to-let sector of the market has been no exception. Many commentators differ about the possible direction of house prices with average annual increases of around 10% continuing. So will the sector crash? Or won’t it? The articles below consider some of the issues on the supply side and the demand side of the market.
Head to Head: Will property prices crash? BBC News Online (13/03/07)
Five million new homes needed Guardian (16/03/07)
Past report of buy-to-let’s death have been exaggerated Guardian(21/02/07)
Britain likely to need 5m new homes by 2027 Guardian (17/03/07)
||Describe the main factors determining the level of supply and demand in the housing market in the UK.
||Using supply and demand diagrams as appropriate, illustrate recent changes in the UK housing market. Draw a further set of diagrams to illustrate the changes in the rented sector of the housing market.
||Assess the most likely direction of house prices in the next three years and give reasons for your answer.