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China's yuan currency hits fresh record high
by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) Oct 26, 2012

Hong Kong announces measures to cool property market
Hong Kong (AFP) Oct 26, 2012 - Hong Kong announced Friday it will raise real-estate purchasing and resale costs to cool its overheating property market down, in a move targeting non-local buyers and speculative activities.

The prices of small and medium sized residential flats in the southern Chinese city, famous for its sky-high rent, surged 20 percent for the first nine months of the year, prompting the government to take action.

The new measures include the increase of special stamp duties for properties re-sold within the first three years of its purchase and imposing an extra 15 percent transaction cost on non-local buyers and local and foreign companies.

The measures "targets speculative activities, and for most genuine homebuyers it would not affect them because they won't be reselling in a short period of time", said Financial Secretary John Tsang.

The extra 15 percent transaction cost "will cause inconvenience to some non-local buyers. We hope that they will understand that this is an extraordinary measure introduced in exceptional circumstances," Tsang said.

The new measures will go into affect on Saturday.

Tsang attributed the substantial increase in the demand for property to low interest rates, adding that the city's economy is showing signs of slowing down due to a weak US market recovery and Euro sovereign debt crisis.

"It is apparent that the property market and the local economy are heading in different directions," he said.

Tsang also acknowledged that the city was in short supply of residential units.

Hong Kong in August unveiled a series of measures to cool the red-hot property market, including to provide around 65,000 new units on the market in the next three to four years.

"Maintaining a healthy stable property market will be our ongoing endeavour," Tsang said.

China's currency hit a record high against the US dollar for the second straight day on Friday, amid US political pressure and growing confidence in the domestic economy, analysts said.

The currency touched an intra-day high of 6.2380 to the dollar at the open, marking the highest level since 1994 when the country launched its modern foreign exchange market.

Analysts said China may be allowing the yuan to appreciate to defuse criticism that the unit is grossly undervalued, ahead of the US presidential election on November 6 and an upcoming US government report on exchange rates.

The yuan closed at 6.2489 to $1.0 on Friday, weakening from Thursday's close of 6.2417, despite earlier touching the record high, according to figures from the China Foreign Exchange Trade System.

"There are expectations that Beijing may use this as a gesture to the United States ahead of the presidential election and the upcoming exchange rate report," Jiang Shu, an analyst at China's Industrial Bank, told AFP.

The US Treasury Department issues a semi-annual report on exchange rate policies that addresses China, among other countries.

The US Treasury said earlier this month that it would put off publishing the report to Congress so it could "assess progress following the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting next month."

China's exchange rate has been a long-running source of friction with the United States and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney recently vowed to brand the country a currency manipulator.

When the US Treasury report was last released in May this year it stopped short of accusing China of manipulating its exchange rate, but warned its "significantly undervalued" currency was a brake on global growth.

Analysts said expectations China's economy, which grew an annual 7.4 percent in the third quarter, might have hit bottom were also helping the currency to strengthen.

Capital inflows sparked by the latest round of US quantitative easing stimulus have also contributed to the yuan's recent strength, they said.

"China's economy has brought about hopes of a recovery. People are becoming more confident and expecting appreciation of the currency," Lu Ting, China economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told AFP.


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