Economists said they saw glimmers of hope after mortgage approvals rose by the biggest margin for three years in February and lending to companies grew at its strongest pace in nearly a year.

The number of loans approved for house purchases rose to 37,937 in February from 31,791 in January, the biggest jump since 2006 and the highest level since last May, according to data published yesterday by the Bank of England.

Meanwhile, Bank figures on M4 money – which includes notes and coins as well as money in bank accounts – showed lending to private non-financial companies grew at a 5% annualised rate over the three months to February. That was the fastest rate of growth since June 2008, and compared with a rise of 0.9% in January.

ncreased lending to house buyers and non-financial businesses last month contrasts with sharp declines at the end of last year and follows a number of faint signs that the recession may be close to a turning point.

Financial Times , The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Independent