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By David Robinson
     LONDON (MNI) - Lenders across the board have tightened up on the provision
of unsecured lending, resulting in a plunge in the credit availability balance
in the Bank of England's first quarter survey.
     While the BOE's Q1 Credit Conditions Survey (CCS), published Thursday,
showed secured household credit availability flat-lining, there was a dramatic
fall in the unsecured credit availability balance from -12.4 in Q4 to -38.7 in
Q1.
     That -38.7 outturn was the lowest in the data series, which stretches back
to Q2 2007. The previous low was -30.5 recorded in Q4 2008, in the depths of the
global financial crisis.
     These balances reflect the proportions of lenders tightening or loosening
credit availability, so they show dispersion rather magnitude of movements. The
plunge is compatible with very widespread decreases in unsecured credit
availability but these declines could modest in size.
     In its analysis the Bank said lenders responding to the Bank's (CCS)
"reported that the availability of unsecured credit fell significantly in 2018
Q1, driven by changing risk appetite and stricter credit scoring criteria.
Looking ahead, lenders expect this to remain unchanged."
     The Bank's financial stability wing has been pushing to ensure banks
maintain or improve underwriting standards on unsecured credit, and the
regulatory push seems to be bearing fruit.
     In a speech earlier Thursday, BOE Deputy Governor Ben Broadbent cited
internal research suggesting that the impact of policy changes on the financial
stability side on both growth and inflation are typically very slight.
     These Q1 data puncture media narratives about sharp increases in unsecured
borrowing against a backdrop of weak real earnings growth. Consumption is not
going to be credit fuelled if lenders are putting the screws on the credit
available.
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2223; email: david.robinson@marketnews.com
--MNI London Bureau; tel: +44 203-586-2225; email: les.commons@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: MABDS$,M$B$$$,M$E$$$]
MNI London Bureau | +44 203-865-3812 | les.commons@marketnews.com