The UK housing market saw an increase in sales in late 2012, boosted by a strong increase in mortgage availability, enabling the number of first-time buyers to rise by 8% in November, to 21,700. Reporting on these numbers, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) also stated that the total level of new mortgages in November was up by 6%, to 52,700 buyers. This is an increase of 13% on the previous year and the highest number reported in a November since 2007. Paul Smee, a director of the CML said: “Encouraging activity in the firsttime buyer sector in November contributed to an uplift in house purchase lending, suggesting that the underlying trend for year-on-year increases should continue.” He went on to add: “We expect the Funding for Lending scheme to continue to encourage a downward drift in interest rates. This may prompt an increase in remortgage activity as borrowers seek to take advantage of lower rates.” Reinforcing this bullish sentiment, Barratt, one of the UK’s largest housebuilders, reported that their order book for 2012 was up 35% from the previous year and that: “Whilst the availability of mortgage finance remains the key constraint to industry growth, we have started to see some improvements coming through. “Expectations are that mortgage lending should increase in 2013, supported by the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme.” Meanwhile, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) stated that, among those of their members who also operate as estate agents, more expect their sales to increase in the first quarter of 2013 than expect them to fall. Markets (January) (Data supplied by the Outsourced Marketing Department) January saw a global recovery in equities, with the FTSE 100 seeing its best level for nearly four-and-a-half years, closing at 6,276.9, up 6.43% since the New Year and now only 4.19% under its long-term trend. The FTSE 250 was more impressive, rising 11.9% to finish at 13,847.1. The Eurostoxx50 improved by 4.3%, closing at 2,749.27, whilst the FTSE All-World index flirted with its highest level since 2008, we also saw Asian markets improve. Investor sentiment remained bullish in the UK, USA, China, and even in Germany, where recently the eurozone crisis had dampened market enthusiasm. With the Euro currency now trading at around $1.37, its highest level since November 2011, sentiment has dramatically improved. Wall Street saw the Dow Jones end the month at 13,860.58, up 5.77% and the S&P 500 reaching a five-year high, with many of the constituent companies reporting better than expected earnings data. With ultra-low interest rates continuing in the USA, Europe and Japan, fuelling the risk appetite of sophisticated investors, the more cautious players may be encouraged to join the party. Indeed the Tokyo market saw the Nikkei rise by 7.15% to end January at 11,138.66, and reach a near three-year high. The currencies markets saw UK Sterling at $1.59 against the greenback and lower at €1.17 against the Euro. The Euro itself was worth $1.37 up 3.41% in the month and sitting at a fourteen month high. Commodities were in demand with the Brent Crude benchmark for oil rising 4% to $115.55 and elsewhere copper rising 1.2%. Gold, however, moved little in the month, finishing at $1,664.63, off 0.67%. Download full report here

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