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LONDON: The volume of mortgages approved by British lenders picked up in February by more than expected, adding to signs that the downturn in the housing market may be levelling off, Bank of England data showed on Wednesday.

The BoE said lenders approved 43,536 mortgages in February, up from 39,647 in January. A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to approvals of around 40,500.

The increase follows reports from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveys and mortgage lender Halifax that show the downturn in the housing market is no longer accelerating, even if conditions remain weak.

Britain’s housing market slowed sharply after September when former prime minister Liz Truss’s economic plans triggered a spike in mortgage rates and a dramatic fall in approvals.

“Reflecting the partial unwinding of the spike in mortgage rates following the ‘mini’ budget, mortgage approvals rose to their highest level for three months in February,” said Andrew Wishart, economist at consultancy Capital Economics.

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