LONDON - British banks approved 37,076 mortgages for house purchase in October, the lowest number since May last year, as the housing market continued to slow, the British Bankers' Association said on Tuesday.

Mortgage approvals for house purchase fell from 39,127 in September, 16 percent down from the same time a year ago and almost a quarter below the peak reached in January, the BBA said.

"Today's figures suggest that the cooling of the property market has continued in recent weeks," said BBA chief economist Richard Woolhouse.

However, unsecured consumer credit lending is picking up strongly, growing at an annual rate of nearly 3 percent, its fastest since the financial crisis started to bite in 2008.

"Consumers continue to show confidence in the economy," Woolhouse said.

Net credit card lending rose by 307 million pounds in October, its biggest increase since June last year, while other personal lending rose by 146 million pounds, more than in recent months but less than seen earlier in the year.

The BBA data are generally a good guide to trends in more comprehensive Bank of England lending data due the following week, but do not include lending by mutually owned building societies, which accounts for almost a third of mortgages.

Britain's housing market has been slowing since the middle of the year, as tighter lending rules, high prices and the prospect of rate rises have dented buyer demand.