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Declining UK mortgages will hurt home sales, Countrywide says

[LONDON] Falling mortgage approvals and uncertainty about the outcome of a national election in May will create "sluggishness" in the UK housing market in the first half, property broker Countrywide Plc said.

There was a "significant deceleration of market growth" during 2014 and buyers became particularly cautious in London, Countrywide said in a statement on Thursday.

The stock fell to the lowest in a month in London trading.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney placed restrictions on mortgage lending to cool the housing market in June and prevent an unsustainable buildup of consumer debt as soaring prices stretched affordability.

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Demand for mortgages fell "significantly" during the fourth quarter, the Bank of England said on Jan 6.

Countrywide declined as much as 3.6 per cent to 415.7 pence, the lowest since Dec 23. The shares were down 2.4 per cent at 420.8 pence at 9am, giving the London-based company a market value of 909 million pounds (US$1.4 billion).