Looking at the most recently released housing market data for October it is tempting to interpret it as showing signs of a thaw in a market that has almost frozen solid.

On the month transactions rose according to the revenue figures, lending was up according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders and sales were up per estate agent from six to seven according to the National Association of Estate Agents.

Admittedly from the estate agent's point of view this is all good news. Movement is the lifeblood of that business not prices. In the current market agents would rather sell two homes at a 30% discount than one home at 10% below asking price.

This leads to rather more taxing and uncomfortable questions about what the data mean. Is the apparent increase in movement in the market a bad sign or good news for the market generally?

Put in crude terms, are we seeing increased confidence from buyers or increasing desperation from sellers?

Somehow I fear the weight is on the side of the latter. It could just be that the market movement is prompted by increasing numbers of sellers willing to cut losses and get out of the market even if it means wearing a hefty drop in sale price.

The phrase "sellers are now willing to accept more realistic prices" is tripping rather easily off the lips of estate agents and their representatives.

The worry in the figures is that they may be signalling the start of a spate of distressed selling. And the repossession figures published today provide no comfort here.

The most important figure for my money is the rapid increase in arrears among the buy-to-let mortgages. This suggests rapidly increasing strain.

The trouble with thaws is that they can lead to some very destructive flooding.