New home loans made last month showed a modest 3.3 per cent growth following a 30.7 per cent fall in February, Hong Kong Monetary Authority data yesterday showed. Gross new loans amounted to HK$8.2 billion, against HK$7.94 billion in February, while new loans approved but not yet fully drawn down rose 14 per cent to HK$9.23 billion. But the turnaround came at the continued expense of lending margins as the mortgage price war showed no signs of abating. The ratio of new loans advanced at more than 2.5 per cent below prime lending rate rose from 12.4 per cent in February to 15.6 per cent last month, while 88 per cent were priced at more than 2 per cent below prime. Analysts cautioned the data was volatile and one month's results did not provide a reliable indicator of underlying trends in demand or a signal that home buyers might be acting on the perception that property price declines might have stabilised or be poised to rise. Loans made for purchases in the secondary market continued their decline last month, shrinking from 39.6 per cent of new loans approved to 37.8 per cent, whereas loans made for refinancing old mortgages rose from 16.8 per cent to 17.8 per cent. Loans made for purchases on the primary market grew from 43.6 per cent to 44.4 per cent. Loans for the purchase of mainland properties showed stronger growth, albeit from a low base, rising 19.2 per cent from HK$73 million to HK$87 million. Home-owners continued to meet repayment commitments despite rising unemployment and wage pressures.