China's Dec home prices stay resilient as big cities rebound

* Dec new home prices +0.8 pct m/m vs +0.9 pct in Nov

* Annual growth +9.7 pct in Dec vs +9.3 pct in Nov

* Guangzhou in southern China was top price performer in Dec

* 59 out of 70 cities record higher prices vs 63 in Nov

By Yawen Chen and Se Young Lee

BEIJING, Jan 16 (Reuters) - China's home prices remained buoyant in December as big cities rebounded despite tough government curbs to cool prices, a sign that Beijing's recent efforts to support its slowing economy may be putting a floor on the real estate market.

Average new home prices in China's 70 major cities grew at a slightly slower pace of 0.8 percent in December, according to Reuters calculations from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data on Wednesday. November prices grew 0.9 pct on month.

That marks the 44th straight month of price increases, despite government measures designed to rein in a real estate boom that has spilled over from megacities to the hinterland.

Most of the 70 cities surveyed by the NBS still reported a monthly price increase for new homes in December. However, in a sign of weakening market strength, the number was down to 59 from 63 in November.

The sector's solid growth could cushion the impact of a vigorous multi-year government crackdown on debt and escalating trade tensions with the United States, although some analysts say bubble risks are rising as prices continue to climb.

From a year earlier, new home prices in December rose 9.7 percent, accelerating from November's pace and almost doubling from a 5.4 percent rise in December 2017.

China's real estate stocks moved higher after the data.

Chinese policymakers have rolled out a flurry of measures to support growth in 2018, including cutting the amount of cash that some banks must hold as reserves several times to boost lending to smaller businesses.

Analysts say relaxing some curbs on property buyers would be one way for policymakers to avert a sharper economic slowdown, but nationwide easing is unlikely as it raises the risk of a bubble and adds to household debt.

BIG CITIES REBOUND

Price growth in China's top-tier cities - Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou - was robust in December compared with the smaller cities, rising 1.3 percent from a month earlier, compared with an increase of 0.3 percent in November, the NBS said in a statement accompanying the data.

The top price performer in December was Guangzhou, a megacity of 13 million in southern China, whose prices surged 3 percent month-on-month, NBS data showed.

The smaller tier-2 provincial capitals and tier-3 cities that the official survey tracks posted a slightly smaller monthly price gain of 0.7 percent, respectively.

There were also signs that some smaller cities - with less onerous regulations - have tacitly loosened policies to boost the market as sales cool.

In December, a city in eastern China reversed a rule designed to curb real estate flipping, sparking speculation more cities could follow suit as slowing sales weigh on the economy.

The policy reversal, announced by the city's government, was the first of its kind since authorities around the country began taking steps about two years ago to control soaring house prices, according to state-run media.

China's top developers by sales, Country Garden, China Vanke and China Evergrande, have seen their contracted sales slowing in recent months.

New real estate loans in 2018 were 6.45 trillion yuan, accounting for 39.9 percent of total new loans in the year, Ruan Jianhong, a central bank spokeswoman, told reporters on Tuesday.

That percentage is slightly lower than in 2017, when it made up 41.1 percent of total new loans, she said.

China's official real estate investment and sales data are due to be published by the NBS next Monday. (Additional reporting by Andrew Galbraith in SHANGHAI; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

First Published: 2019-01-16 03:56:35
Updated 2019-01-16 05:00:45


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