By William Schomberg
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s housing market got a boost from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s big election win in December, a survey showed on Thursday, a pick-up that will be noted by the Bank of England as it considers whether to cut interest rates this month.
Agreed home sales rose for the first time since May and expectations of future sales both jumped, according to the report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
A measure of new buyer inquiries hit its highest level since before the Brexit referendum in 2016.
RICS Chief Economist Simon Rubinsohn said it remained to be seen if the recovery continued, given the uncertainty over whether Britain can strike a trade deal with the European Union before a deadline at the end of 2020.
“However, the sales expectations indicators clearly point to the prospect of more upbeat trend in transactions,” Rubinsohn said, noting that potential buyers were increasingly following through on initial inquiries.
The RICS survey echoed other early signs of a pick-up in confidence among consumers and companies since Johnson’s Conservatives won the election emphatically on Dec. 12, clearing up some of the uncertainty that has weighed on the economy.
However, several officials from the Bank of England, including Governor Mark Carney, have said interest rates might need to be cut if the overall economy remains weak. The next BoE rate decision is due on Jan. 30.
“The marked improvement in the December RICS survey provides further evidence that should persuade the BoE that there has been an upswing in sentiment following the election,” Allan Monks, an economist with JP Morgan, said.
He said the main focus of investors now was the preliminary PMI surveys of British businesses in January which are due to be published on Jan. 24.
Andy Chaytor, a rates strategist at Nomura, said the housing market was one of the best early indicators of economic activity in Britain and he thought the stronger RICS report would lead to a modest increase in next week’s PMIs.
Britain’s housing market has slowed along with the broader economy since the Brexit referendum.
But in December, the monthly RICS house price balance rose to -2, its highest since June, from -11 in November.
A rebound in the market in London and neighboring southeastern England pushed up new instructions for home sales at a national level.
The housing market in the capital has been particularly hard hit by worries about Brexit in recent months, as well as higher taxes on expensive properties.
The RICS survey was conducted between Dec. 20 and Jan. 9.
(Reporting by William Schomberg; Editing by Andy Bruce and Alison Williams)