It has been a welcome return to normality after the madness of Budget week - although arguments are still rumbling on over Stamp Duty for those purchasing in company names, and the tax cut for the wealthy supposedly paid for by a bit of granny bashing.

And forget the issues in Syria or cash for dinner with David Cameron – if the government messes with a Greggs pasty all hell breaks loose.

Meanwhile, swaps continued their meandering, though on a definite downward trajectory, while LIBOR dipped a tad.

Three-month LIBOR is down at 1.03%.
1-year money is down 0.03% at 0.94%
2-year money is down 0.05 at 1.24%
3-year money is down 0.09% at 1.32%
5-year money is down 0.14% at 1.60%

It was a strange kind of week in the mortgage market and while at times it feels a little like 2008 again, there is enough business out there to stop us falling into the precipice.

I compared the best broker deals to the best direct deals and for the first time in a while the cheapest deals are all in the direct space. At the time of writing fixed rates were on average 0.56% cheaper direct, while tracker deals were similar.

While I believe this will change for the better for brokers, and I will track it again in a couple of months, any decent broker knows how to overcome the differentials.

Clients generally want and need independent advice, while lenders like HSBC are becoming almost unusable for anyone needing to move quickly. There has been some positive movement from lenders that have been criticised in recent weeks. NatWest has come back quickly to the interest-only space, albeit with strict criteria and only for those who have held a bank account with it for at least three months.

The key is that this criteria is now the same for brokers and direct, which is all we can ask for.

And it released some decent rates including a two-year fixed at 2.89% and a 90% LTV fix at 5.79%. It’s changed its buy-to-let rates too.

Woolwich has shown that it has listened to brokers by simplifying its booking system, which includes a change to the time of its daily reset button to 10am, so hopefully that will end the midnight anguish. It also has a new website and an affordability calculator. The only thing it needs to do now is stop the pre-recorded phone calls.

It is nice to have ING Direct back on the scene with a flurry of rate cuts across the board. It is a useful lender with rates available up to £2m. And Coventry Building Society continues its consistently good offering with new offset and buy-to-let products from 3.49%.
Precise Mortgages has launched a near-prime range with two-year trackers and two, three and five-year fixes.

It was a shame to see Skipton Building Society pull out of the 95% LTV market and become the latest lender to cut its interest-only offering to 60% LTV.

Heroes & Villains

Hero of the week
AMI director Robert Sinclair for his recent comments and hardline attitude to the FSA. Our industry needs strong representation and Sinclair has shown he is not afraid of some tough talking.

Villain of the week
Michael Bolton for his comments in Lending Zone. He said: “It’s absurd brokers exist today. If I were at HBOS or Lloyds group, I would be squeezing them.” Maybe his next single will be ’How am I supposed to live without brokers?’.