By Max Clarke

House prices climbed marginally by 0.1% from February to March, though at £162,912 they remain 2.9% lower than for the same month last year. Quarterly change stood at a 0.6% reduction, according to the Halifax House Price Index.

"The overall decrease in prices in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the previous quarter was a little lower than the quarterly falls recorded in the third and fourth quarters of 2010. The recent increase in employment, particularly those in full-time jobs, may have been an important factor supporting the market,” commented Martin Ellis, housing economist.

Bank of England figures show the number of mortgages approved to finance house purchase — a leading indicator of completed house sales — recovered further from its December low with a 2% increase between January and February.