Euro zone banks are toughening their requirements of prospective mortgage borrowers, a European Central Bank survey published today showed.

Despite this demand for home purchase loans continued to swell in early 2019. 

Credit standards – the boxes house-hunters have to check to receive a mortgage – tightened by 3% between January and March, lenders told the Frankfurt institution.

Meanwhile "net demand for housing loans continued to increase in the first quarter… driven mainly by the low general level of interest rates," the ECB added.

Although demand for other forms of consumer borrowing also grew, companies' appetite for credit was only "stable" compared with the previous quarter, marking time after continuous increases since early 2015.

January's round of the quarterly poll of almost 150 banks had forecast a slowdown in demand for loans, as weaker economic indicators pointed to slowing growth in the 19-nation euro zone. 

In the event, 'hard' data and 'soft' pointers from surveys have both confirmed that the weaker expansion seen in late 2018 has persisted into the new year. 

The ECB last month lowered its annual growth forecast for 2019 by 0.6 points, to 1.1% – following in the footsteps of organisations like the International Monetary Fund. 

It blamed a familiar litany of culprits including uncertainty over Brexit and trade spats between the US, China and the European Union. 

Frankfurt policymakers see the soft patch lasting until around the middle of the year before a resurgence in the second half, ECB Vice-President Luis de Guindos told European Parliament lawmakers last week. 

Meanwhile Portuguese finance minister Mario Centeno – who leads regular "Eurogroup" meetings of treasury bosses from the single currency area – last week said a Brexit deal and trade truces between Washington, Beijing and Brussels could help lift the clouds.