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Northern Rock chipper on UK mortgage market

Mortgage lender Northern Rock delivered an upbeat assessment of the UK property sector's prospects for growth in 2007.Releasing a trading statement covering the three months to March 31st, the company predicted that Britain's gross mortgage market would increase from £345 billion in 2006 to at least £360 billion in 2007.Its claims reject suggestions that overall activity in Britain's housing market has been dampened by the Bank of England's three interest rate rises in the five months to January."Despite these rises the absolute level of interest rates remains low by historical standards and mortgage affordability for the average UK household remains good," the statement argued.It described the buy-to-let market as remaining "firm" and said the strength of home-moving transactions would be maintained "with fundamental support provided by the lack of alternative tenure together with inelastic supply".Northern Rock chief executive Adam Applegarth said the company had already benefited from strong conditions in the last three months."We have started 2007 strongly, with lending performance well ahead of the comparable period last year and a strong pipeline of business set to deliver asset growth in the top half of our strategic range," he commented.Shares in Northern Rock rose by 0.26 per cent during morning trading.

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