Morning papers: £1bn of home loans offered via Help to Buy

Nearly £1bn of home loans have been offered through the government’s Help to Buy scheme in the first three months since its early introduction in October, the Telegraph reports.

The scheme, which has triggered warnings of a fresh housing bubble, has allowed more than 6,000 homebuyers to put in an offer on a property and apply for a mortgage, prime minister David Cameron will say today.

Those mortgages, once approved, will amount to almost £1bn of new lending, the Prime Minister will state. So far 750 purchases have been completed since the initiative was rolled out in October.

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Britain’s economic recovery to gain momentum

Britain’s economic recovery is expected to strengthen this year, according to a poll of 100 economists by the Financial Times.

After three years of stagnation, Britain’s economy was one of the few to beat expectations over the second half of 2013, when the recoveries in the euro area and Japan faltered.

Several quarters of strong growth have spurred UK economists, largely caught out by the strength of the upturn, to become much more optimistic.

Fragmentation within the eurozone

The European Central Bank had only modest success in easing big differences in interest rates paid by businesses across the eurozone, which remain near peaks seen at the height of the region’s debt crisis, reports the Financial Times.

Companies in the eurozone’s weakest economies still face significantly higher borrowing costs than in countries such as Germany, according to a cross-market analysis by Goldman Sachs. The extent of the divergence has fallen since a peak in May 2013 but is higher than in mid-2011.

The degree of fragmentation will disappoint the ECB and fuel its concern about constraints on private-sector credit flows to the eurozone “periphery” economies. Mario Draghi, president, warned earlier in December that it was “essential that the fragmentation of euro area credit markets declines further”.

Dutch manufacturing output at 32-month high

According to the Guardian, the Dutch manufacturing PMI has risen to a 32-month high of 57.0 for last month, from 56.8 in November.

The figures represent strong performance for the month of December and show that factory growth accelerated. Markit, which compiled the data, said Dutch factories reported growth in new orders and rising confidence.

Elsewhere, Polish manufacturing PMI has dropped for the first time in eight months, to 53.2 from 54.4 - but that still indicates the sector expanded.

Decline in Chinese manufacturing activity

Chinese manufacturing activity declined in December, piling pressure on communist leaders grappling with the slowest economic growth in the country since 1999, amid booming property prices and rising local government debts, the Guardian reports.

An industry group, the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing, said that its purchasing managers index for December declined to 51 from the previous month’s 51.4, where numbers above 50 indicate increasing activity.