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DUBLIN, Feb 28 (Reuters) - The value of mortgage approvals in Ireland grew 60 percent year-on-year in January, data showed on Tuesday, as an easing of central bank lending rules and a new government subsidy for first-time home buyers accelerated a recovery.
Irish mortgage lending collapsed in the wake of the 2007/09 global financial crisis following a banking and economic crash, and a rebound over the last three years has been held back by a severe shortage of housing and tighter lending rules.
While supply is only slowly returning, the government scheme offering a tax rebate and less onerous deposit rules to those buying their first home saw such purchasers account for almost half of approvals in the three months to the end of January.
First-time buyers' share of the mortgage market had fallen sharply in recent years as younger workers struggled to save large deposits amid soaring rental costs resulting from years of under-supply since the property market collapsed a decade ago.
Irish mortgage lending grew by 15 percent to 5.7 billion euros ($6.0 billion)last year as the fast-recovering economy helped to return the market to a more normalised level that analysts say should be around 10 billion euros a year.
Davy Stockbrokers, Investec and Goodbody Stockbrokers each said on Tuesday that their forecasts for annual growth of 20 to 24 percent this year could prove too pessimistic if the January trend is repeated in the coming months.
"On the basis of recent trends, these forecasts may be exceeded, returning the mortgage market to 'normality' sooner than expected," Goodbody chief economist Dermot O'Leary said of his expectation for 22 percent year-on-year growth in 2017. ($1 = 0.9438 euros) (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)