Weekly Round-Up: 30th March 2018

Remortgage leads the way

Gross mortgage lending in February is estimated as £19bn. According to the February 2018 UK Finance update on lending, this is 4.9 per cent more than a year ago but it is still below 2017’s monthly average of £21.4bn. The data shows that in February re-mortgage approvals are up over 9 per cent in both number and value compared to February 2017.

The figures suggest an increase in re-mortgage approvals compared to last year. There is speculation that interest rates will rise later on in the year and as a result, borrowers are looking to lock into attractive deals. UK Finance has also seen a continued rise in credit card spending which reflects the growing number of transactions carried out using cards. In conjuntion to this, it has been document that other forms of borrowing such as overdrafts are continuing to fall.

The trade body highlights that real wages continue to be squeezed by inflation, impacting on consumer confidence and retail sales but suggest that the pressure on household incomes should ease in the coming months, as the effect of the fall in sterling begins to fade and the strong labour market leads to a better outlook for wage growth.

In February, we have seen modest year on year growth of commercial lending which is driven by investment within the manufacturing sector. Credit balances have risen at an even faster rate as companies build reserves in the face of economic uncertainty and its effect on longer term business confidence.

Be in control!

Causes of cancer can be placed into two rough camps: those which can be controlled and those which can’t. The latter includes signals such as random changes to people’s genes as they get older, or hereditary mutations. By their nature, there’s not much anyone can do about these risks. But for the many causes that people do have some control over, such as smoking, there’s a potentially life-saving chance to act. Armed with information about what increases risk, people can make changes that stack the odds of avoiding cancer in their favour. Politicians can see where action is needed most. The goal of new data Cancer Research UK released this week is to provide that information.

The data comes from a new landmark study led by Cancer Research UK researchers. It looks at the things in people’s lives that cause cancer and calculates how many cases in the UK are linked to each of these risk factors. Cancer Research UK have done calculations like this before, but this new research uses all the latest available data and evidence to give more accurate estimates. Because some risk factors have become more common since the previous analysis and others have become less common, it’s important to update these figures. The findings, published in the British Journal of Cancer, show that more than 135,000 cases of cancer could be prevented in the UK each year largely through lifestyle changes – that’s around 4 in 10 cases. And while what’s behind these cancers may not come as a surprise, the results confirm how the things we do each day can add up.

The team did this for all the modifiable risk factors and found that in total, more than 135,000 cases of cancer could be prevented through changes such as stopping smoking, keeping a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet. Enjoying the sun safely, avoiding certain substances at work, protecting against certain infections and cutting back on alcohol can also help.

It’s important to say again that this research can’t tell what has caused or will cause an individual’s cancer. The data come from comparing large groups of people. So, while research has shown that, for example, being overweight can increase the risk of cancer, it doesn’t mean you will definitely get cancer if you are overweight. And this is true for the other risk factors as well.

Twice the customers

According to the latest analysis by the Equity Release Council, the volume of new customers taking out equity release plans in 2017 was almost 10,000 more than in the previous year, as the number of people unlocking housing wealth for the first time increased by a third. As a source of retirement finance, equity release is now helping more than twice as many new customers as it was five years ago. More new plans were agreed in the second half of 2017 than in the whole of 2012.

All strands of equity release activity – across new customers, returning drawdown customers and further advance customers – grew in the second half of the year compared with the first, with the 14% rise in overall customer numbers driven by a 20% increase in new customers and a 19% increase in further advances. Returning drawdown activity was more consistent, with the number of returning customers rising 5% from 12,585 in H1 to 13,209 in H2.

Growing interest in the equity release market from consumers is a sign that more homeowners consider housing wealth to be a potential source of finance in later life, and are finding an increasingly flexible range of products enabling them to unlock some of its value. One sign of this shifting mindset is that back in Q2 2016 just 29p of housing wealth was unlocked by over-55s for every £1 of savings accessed via flexible pension payments, following the introduction of ‘pension freedoms’ a year earlier. This rose to 38p of housing wealth for every £1 of pension payments over the whole of 2016, climbing again to 47p during 2017 and reached 56p in Q4 2017, as property becomes increasingly important as a supplementary source of retirement finance.

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