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POLITICAL ECONOMY
More Chinese cities record new home price increases
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 18, 2012


New home prices in more Chinese cities rose in July than in the previous month, the government said Saturday, amid cautious optimism the country's property market may be bottoming out.

Prices in 50 out of the 70 Chinese cities tracked by the government increased in July from June, the National Bureau of Statistics said in a statement. That represented a doubling from 25 in June.

China has been taking steps to tighten its housing market for more than two years. Measures have included prohibitions on buying second homes, raising minimum down-payments and imposing property taxes in certain areas.

The government, however, has also recently taken steps to boost the country's slowing economy by cutting interest rates twice in quick succession and encouraging lending by reducing reserve requirements at banks.

Cutting interest rates reduces the cost of taking out a mortgage and can stimulate buying.

Prices of new homes in another 11 cities were unchanged in July compared with 24 in June, statistics bureau said. Prices in a total of nine cities fell on a monthly basis, down from 21 in June.

Government officials have attributed the slowdown of the world's second-largest economy, which grew 7.6 percent on year from April to June, to the weakening of the property market as well as sluggish foreign demand for China's exports.

"Over the past few months, there have been signs that the slowdown in China's residential property market may be ending, with a number of cities beginning to report consistent increases in property prices," Mark Budden of built asset consultancy EC Harris said in a statement.

He added, however, that it was "a little premature" to call an end to the property slowdown.

"If the market does begin to heat up again, central government is likely to step in to curb speculation," Budden said.

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