UK house prices rise at fastest pace since 2014; fuel and clothes lift inflation – business live

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The number of homes sold in the UK hit a record high in March as buyers and sellers attempted to complete deals, and take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.

An estimated 180,690 transactions were recorded during the month, according to official figures from HMRC.

That’s twice as many as in March 2020 and the highest number since it started publishing the data in this way in 2005.

With prices rising at their fastest rate in six years, it shows the fevered nature of the market.

The stamp duty holiday had been due to finish at the end of March, creating a rush to complete sales, but was extended in the Budget until the end of June.

Nicky Stevenson, the managing director at the national estate agent group Fine & Country, said:

“The property market remains in a parallel universe at odds with the wider reality everyone has been living.

“It’s been a gloom-defying 12 months, given that last March, when the first lockdown arrived, the market seized up, mortgage products were withdrawn and everyone held their breath.”

Fitness fans took part in more than 1m workouts in the first week after reopening in England, according to the UK’s largest gym chain, PureGym, my colleague Joanna Partridge explains.

Reporting a 92% crash in annual profits after Covid lockdown restrictions forced the closure of its gyms for more than a third of 2020, the group said customers were keen to get back on their exercise bikes, with footfall rebounding to a level similar to the equivalent week in 2019.

PureGym reopened its 240 sites in England on 12 April, including 10 new locations, while tens of thousands of new members joined.

Gyms are scheduled to reopen in Scotland this month, followed by those in Wales, and Northern Ireland in early May. The group’s venues reopened in Switzerland on Monday and it expects to restart the treadmills in Denmark next month.