In some rare good news for the struggling housing market, home loans have posted a surprise rise.

Home loans rose 0.3 per cent in March, following a 2.5 per cent decline in February, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said today. Economists polled had predicted a 2 per cent fall for the month.

“It’s an okay result,” said JPMorgan senior economist Ben Jarman. “It’s telling us things weren’t too weak going into the RBA’s 50 basis cut which they delivered a couple weeks ago.”

Growth in Australia’s housing market has slowed over the past year with mixed signals about interest rates and the health of the economy keeping buyer activity subdued.

This month, the Reserve Bank cut interest rates by 50 basis points, with banks passing along the majority of the reduction to borrowers.

Auction clearance rates, a forward looking barometer of the market’s health, perked up over the past weekend. Melbourne’s auction clearance rate was a healthy 63 per cent last weekend, according to the Real Estate Institute of Victoria.

In Sydney it was 61.8 per cent, according to Fairfax-owned Australian Property Monitors.

The ABS said that the value of total dwelling loans fell 0.5 per cent, seasonally adjusted, to $20.18 billion in March.

The number of first home buyer loans as a share of total owner occupied home loans, dropped to 16.4 per cent in March 2012 from 17.2 per cent in February 2012.