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SYDNEY, Jan 30 AAP

January 30 2013, 3:38PM

Australians are still approaching their finances with caution, but are willing to take on some debt to buy big ticket items.

The Consumer Credit Demand Index released by data company Veda on Wednesday showed a 4.1 per cent rise in overall credit demand in the year to December, suggesting a pickup in borrowing.

Veda general manager of consumer risk Angus Luffman said Australians seemed willing to take on credit for some purchases, but remained cautious about other types of debt.

"Consumer credit is showing a solid pace in growth for the first time in over a year," he said.

"We saw the credit demand trend move upwards through the December quarter, which was all driven by personal loans, suggesting that Australian consumers were feeling good enough to borrow for some bigger-ticket purchases.

"The continuing weakness in credit cards and mortgage enquiries still indicates that the attitude of consumers towards borrowing is still broadly one of caution."

Veda's study showed credit cards applications falling by two per cent overall, with falls in all states other than Western Australia.

Personal loan applications were up in all states, with double-digit rises in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

Overall, the number of applications for personal loans rose 10 per cent.

But a flat result for mortgage enquiries did not bode well for Australia's struggling housing market and property prices, Mr Luffman said.

"There is little evidence in the latest Veda data that the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) rate cuts are having much effect in reigniting housing turnover," he said.

Mortgage enquiries were flat over the past year, according to the data, but there was some variation between the states, with NT and WA showing strength on the back of the resources boom, while NSW, Queensland and Tasmania reported falls, South Australia showed a small rise, and Victoria remained flat.

The Veda report comes a day after a Dun & Bradstreet survey indicating a turn away from credit - and towards saving - among Australian households.

According to the Consumer Credit Expectation Survey, only 18 per cent of respondents plan to increase their debt in the March quarter - down from 22 per cent in the December quarter, and 26 per cent in the September quarter.

The survey also showed a flat result for home loan, personal loan, credit card and credit limit increase applications, and a rise in the number of debt card holders.

By Caroline Smith