House price growth in the UK slowed in January, as did the rate of new houses coming onto the market, according to data from British mortgage lender Halifax on Wednesday.
Prices in the three months to January rose by an annual rate of 2.2%, Halifax said, down from the 2.7% rise seen in the three months to December and missing analysts' forecasts of 2.4% annual growth.
Month-on-month, prices fell 0.6% in January, following a 0.8% drop in December.
Analysts expected prices would rise month on month by 0.2% following previous data from rival house price gauges. Indeed, Nationwide building society published more upbeat findings that suggested a monthly rise of 0.6% in January and an annual growth rate of 3.2% from 2.6% in December.
Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax Community Bank, said that stretched household budgets remained at the heart of a softening housing market, but that prices were not likely to fall.
He said: "Despite the recent rise in the Bank of England Base Rate, mortgage rates are still very low. This, combined with an ongoing acute shortage of properties for sale, will continue to underpin house prices over the coming months."
Falling mortgage approvals
But Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics pointed to the sharp drop in mortgage approvals in December as a sign that demand was falling faster than supply - a phenomenon that won't have escaped the notice of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee (MPC).
"The MPC didn’t see this downturn coming in November; it expected both mortgage approvals and house prices to continue to edge up," said Tombs.
"This is a big oversight, given the key role that house prices play in households’ confidence and spending . . . so we doubt that they will signal to markets tomorrow that interest rates could rise as soon as May."
The FTSE 100 index climbed 0.75% - more of a reaction to recent losses than today's data, while the pound was weaker as the US dollar climbed across the board. The pound was also weaker versus the euro, however, down 0.18% at £0.8887.