Business / Industries

China home prices fall in April

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-05-18 10:20

China home prices fall in April

Potential buyers select homes at a housing sales center in Rizhao city, East China's Shandong province, April 25, 2015. [Photo /IC]

BEIJING - China's real estate market remained largely anemic in April, but the faint price recovery in top-tier cities offered a sign of improvement in a sector whose fortunes are deemed to be crucial to the economy.

Of 70 large and medium-sized cities surveyed, 48 saw new home prices dip in April from the previous month, down from 50 in March, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Monday.

Year on year, 69 cities reported new home price drops, with Shenzhen being the only outlier, with a 0.7-percent gain.

For existing homes, 34 cities saw price declines in April on a monthly basis, eight reported flat prices, while 28 cities posted gains.

While the market remains broadly on a downward trend, home prices in some first-tier cities are edging up on the back of government support policies.

According to NBS calculations, China's top-tier cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, saw average home prices up 1 percent on a monthly basis in April, whereas those in second- and third-tied cities declined 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

China's property market took a downturn in 2014 due to weak demand and a surplus of unsold homes. The cooling has continued into 2015, with both sales and prices falling and investment slowing.

The persistent weakness in the sector, combined with shrinking exports due to uneven global economic recovery, dragged China's growth to 7 percent in the first quarter, the lowest quarterly rate since 2009.

Repeatedly highlighting downward pressure on the economy, Chinese authorities have taken measures to arrest the slowdown. The central bank has cut the benchmark interest rate three times since November. It has also dropped banks' reserve requirement ratio twice since February.

In March, China reduced down payment levels for second home buyers to 40 percent from the previous 60 to 70 percent, and exempted business tax for sales of homes purchased over two years ago.

On the back of such policies, home sales in some major cities have picked up, but in less developed areas where inventories remained high, the policy effect seemed muted.

Earlier data from property agent Centaline showed April's transaction volume of second-hand homes in Beijing reached 17,191, the highest in nearly 25 months.

Bank of Communications forecast that the regional divergence in the market would continue in May. It also expects property investment to further slow as developers are pressured by stockpiles and financing costs.

Investment in China's property sector rose 6 percent year on year to 2.37 trillion yuan ($387.25 billion) in the first four months of the year. The growth dropped from the 8.5-percent increase seen in the first quarter.

UBS China noted in a report on Wednesday that although property sales returned to growth, it is hard to say how long this can be sustained.

"Until the structural imbalance in China's property supply and underlying demand is resolved, a huge inventory overhang will deter developers from resuming aggressive construction or investment plans -- a trend that we expect to last through the rest of this year," said the report, which stressed that the property sector still exerts sizeable downside pressures on the economy.

China is targeting a growth target of around 7 percent for 2015.

Related story: China's home price decline slows in March: surveys, by Agencies

The rate of decline in Chinese home prices slowed in March from February, two private surveys showed on Wednesday, adding to hopes the housing market is stabilizing as Beijing enacts policies to bolster economy.

Prices of new homes in 288 cities fell 0.01 percent in March, the 12th consecutive drop on a monthly basis, a poll by property services provider Real Estate Information Corporation (CRIC) showed. The drop slowed from a 0.06 percent decline in February.

But home prices were 1.71 percent lower compared to a year ago, from 1.62 percent in the previous month.

"The index has been falling for one year, but the monthly drop has been narrowing for four months," said CRIC, owned by E-House China Holdings Ltd.

China on Monday lured potential home buyers with a bigger tax break as it cut downpayment requirements for the second time in six months, stepping up a fight against sliding house prices that are imperilling the world's second-biggest economy.

The central bank cut interest rates in November and February and lowered bank reserve requirements to encourage lending. More cuts are expected in coming months as Beijing works to meet a growth forecast of 7 percent this year.

But as stock market investors cheer China's latest bid to boost an ailing housing sector, bankers are gritting their teeth over the risks they face in further relaxing rules on lending to home buyers.

A separate survey by China Real Estate Index System (CREIS) showed average prices in 100 of the biggest cities fell 0.15 percent in March on-month, also narrowing from a 0.24 percent fall in February.

Compared with a year ago, home prices dropped 4.35 percent, the sixth consecutive month showing an annual fall, compared to 3.84 percent fall in the previous month, said CREIS, a consultancy linked to China's largest property data provider, Soufun Holdings.

China Vanke Co Ltd, China's top property developer, said on Tuesday land prices in China have not yet returned to reasonable levels, suggesting limited demand.

The government is due to publish its March property price data for 70 of the biggest Chinese cities on April 18 after reporting its property sales and investment figures on April 15.

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