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Bank lending declines in February, latest figures show


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The latest data from the Central Bank shows lending to Irish households fell in February, including a €327m decline in the overall size of the mortgage market.

Total mortgage loans declined at a rate of 2.4pc in the 12 months to February. Households repaid €1.9bn more than they borrowed in the period.

The figures show the overall Irish banking market remains in decline.

The assets of the Irish banking system, including all loans issued to business and personal customers in the country, shrank by €2bn in February.

If international lending, the bulk of it by banks in the IFSC, is included overall lending grew by €11bn, however.

But in the so-called real economy loans for house purchases make up by far the biggest share of retail lending within Ireland - at 84pc. That is still in decline, and the latest figures show repayments of other household debt such as credit cards and personal loans outstripped new lending by €48m.

"The lending data remain a cause for concern," Merrion Capital economist Alan McQuaid said. "Households and businesses may still want to pay down outstanding debt, and with the cost of funding remaining high, particularly compared with the Eurozone average, there is no incentive to take on new borrowings.

"However, credit will in our view need to flow at a much stronger level than currently if the Irish economy is to grow to potential over the long-run."

Unsurprisingly, given the lack of new lending, banks now hold €3.6bn more in household deposits than they have outstanding in loans.

That suggests banks are lending at less than their capacity, and contrasts with the opposite extreme in early 2009 when household loans exceeded deposits by €53.5bn.