UPDATE 1-China 2013 property investment and sales quicken

Sun Jan 19, 2014 11:12pm EST

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BEIJING Jan 20 (Reuters) - Growth in real estate investment and property sales accelerated in China in 2013, a sign the booming property market has resisted Beijing's sustained efforts to cool it down.

Real estate investment, which accounted for 15 percent of China's gross domestic product in 2013, rose 19.8 last year from a year earlier, compared with 16.2 percent in 2012, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday.

Property sales rose 17.3 percent in terms of floor space, and 26.3 percent in terms of value, the agency said in a statement on its website, www.stats.gov.cn

That compared with annual increases of 1.8 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in 2012.

China's property sector is one of the few bright spots in a slowing economy and the government has tried to tread a fine line between reining in rising property prices that threaten affordability for average wage earners and stifling economic growth elsewhere.

"Property investment has been one of the main drivers of the stabilising economy since the third quarter of last year," said Shen Jianguang, chief China economist with Mizuho Securities in Hong Kong.

Analysts said buoyant sales have enabled developers to quicken their pace of expansion, which helped hold up property investment throughout 2013. Government efforts to build more affordable housing also contributed to investment growth.

The NBS data also showed that construction starts rose 13.5 percent in 2013, quicker than an increase of 11.5 percent in the January-November period.

Still, data for December alone showed signs of stabilisation in the property market, with property sales up only 0.7 percent in that month in terms of floor space from a year earlier, according to Reuters calculations based on NBS data.

That compared with an annual increase of 14.8 percent in November, though the month-alone data, derived from cumulative figures, is volatile.

Meanwhile, total land area bought by developers rose 8.8 percent in 2013 from a year earlier, easing from an increase of 9.9 percent in the first 11 months.

Separate data on Saturday showed that prices of new homes in China continued to surge in December, though the pace of gains overall did not exceed the previous month's and rises eased in some major cities, suggesting that government tightening measures may be starting to bite. (Reporting By Xiaoyi Shao and Jonathan Standing; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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