Mixed messages on house market recovery

Two of the biggest bellwethers of the housing market yesterday provided mixed messages on the recovery of the UK property sector. While the housebuilder Barratt Developments boasted an improved trading performance and an uplift in selling prices over the six months to 31 December, Travis Perkins, the owner of the DIY retail chain Wickes, reported a slump in annual sales at its eponymous builders’ merchants, and warned that it was unable to predict when the group will return to growth. Barratt Developments’ buoyant update came against the backdrop of stark warnings on the economy and housing market by Kate Barker, a member of the Monetary Policy Committee, on Monday, that the rally over the last 12 months cannot continue.