Australian home prices up almost 10 pct in 2013-RP Data

SYDNEY Wed Jan 1, 2014 5:56pm EST

SYDNEY Jan 2 (Reuters) - Home prices across Australia's major cities ended 2013 on a strong note to deliver an annual increase of 9.8 percent, their best performance in four years, industry data showed on Monday.

Figures from property consultant RP Data-Rismark showed overall dwelling prices rose 1.4 percent in December, picking up from a 0.1 percent increase the previous month. For the fourth quarter, prices rose 2.8 percent.

Gains for the year were led by Sydney, where prices were up 14.5 percent, while Perth recorded growth of 9.9 percent and Melbourne 8.5 percent.

The median property value across all 8 major cities hit A$540,000 ($480,000). Prices for houses grew by 9.9 percent, slightly outpacing a 9 percent increase for apartments.

Policy makers have generally welcomed the acceleration in home prices, which they consider necessary to encourage more home building.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has been counting on a revival in construction to provide vital support to the economy as a long boom in mining investment starts to cool.

The central bank has played down fears of a bubble in prices, though it has cautioned investors against getting carried away with buying homes for capital gains. (Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by John Mair)

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