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House Prices Up In July

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LONDON (Reuters) - House prices in Britain rose in July after two consecutive months of declines, the country's largest mortgage lender said on Thursday.

HBOS's Halifax house price index rose 0.2 percent last month after a 1.2 percent decline in June, leaving prices up 8.8 percent on the year in the three months to July, down from a rate of 9.4 percent in the three months to June.

The figures reinforced expectations that the Bank of England would leave interest rates at 4.5 percent later on Thursday, although a few economists are still predicting a quarter-point hike because of a pick-up in inflation.

HBOS revised up its forecast for house price inflation in 2006 to 5 percent from 3 but said there were increasing signs that both the upward trends in prices and activity levels were easing.

"This mixed pattern of monthly price rises and falls is a typical feature of a more stable housing market. Overall, house prices have increased 0.9 percent in the past four months compared with a 3.3 percent rise in the preceding four months," said Martin Ellis, HBOS chief economist.

The cost of an average home stood at 177,020 pounds.

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