Home prices rise slower in April

Updated: 2013-05-18 17:18


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BEIJING - New home prices rose at a slower pace in Chinese cities in April as the government's recent tightening measures started to take effect, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed on Saturday.

Of a statistical pool of 70 major Chinese cities, 67 saw home prices increase in April from a month earlier, with the highest growth rate at 2.1 percent, down from the 3.2 percent in March.

All the first-tier cities saw their price hikes narrowed. April property prices in Beijing rose 1.8 percent from a month earlier, 0.9 percentage point lower than the pace in March.

Home prices in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen increased 2.0, 2.1 and 1.8 percent, respectively, in April, 1.2, 0.4 and 1.0 percentage points lower than the figures in the previous month.

A total of 36 cities registered slower month-on-month price rises in April, according to the NBS.

Liu Jianwei, a senior statistician with the bureau, said although Chinese cities reported a slower pace in property price hikes in April, prices are still advancing. "The implementation of tightening policies is crucial at this phase," according to Liu.

Zhang Dawei, director of Centaline Property's research center, said the market expectations for continuous price rises remain.

"The latest tightening measures announced in early March have not been able to produce as obvious an effect as that of the last two rounds of tightening in May 2010 and February 2011," he said.

Previous curbs have led the number of new home transactions to drop by more than 35 percent each time, according to Zhang. But April figures showed that transactions only plunged 18.5 percent month on month.

"If there is no a drastic fall in transactions, we can not expect a plunge in prices," he added.

Chinese property prices started to rebound in the second half of 2012, shored up by the country's pro-growth policy including interest rate cuts.

Runaway prices led the government to issue a guideline in early March to tighten its grip on the real estate sector. The guideline comprised higher transactions taxes, increased down payments, and stricter purchase qualifications.

In first-tier cities like Beijing, the guideline was well implemented. But in a lot of other cities, the follow-up measures announced by local governments stopped short of the strictest items in the state instructions, as local authorities wanted to protect the property market to ensure fiscal revenues.

Official figures showed that local governments saw fiscal revenue expand 14.7 percent year on year in April on the back of sharp increases in housing transactions, as compared to a 2.2-percent drop in the central government's fiscal revenue amid weak economic recovery.

Zhang also sounded a warning about the capital inflow into the property market. "The latest round of property price hikes was fuelled by the abundant supply of credit in 2012. If the government can not control the capital flows into the housing market, the prices will rebound."

China's real estate sector saw investment surge 21.1 percent year on year in the first four months of 2013. The rise was 0.9 percentage points higher than the rate logged in the first three months of the year.

Soaring land prices also add to concerns over the property market.

The average price of land purchased by Chinese property developers surged 21.1 percent year on year in the first four months, marking the fastest growth in the past two years, according to the Shanghai-based E-house China R&D Institute.

On a year-on-year basis, 68 Chinese cities saw price increases in April, with Guangzhou showing the biggest increase of 13.7 percent, followed by Beijing and Shenzhen, the NBS figures showed.

But Zhang said the property market is unlikely to see runaway price growth in the coming months, given an obvious overstock in third-tier cities and the strict implementation of property curbs in first-tier cities.