China's house prices gains ease in January -surveys

BEIJING Fri Jan 31, 2014 8:59pm EST

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BEIJING Feb 1 (Reuters) - Gains in home prices in China eased in January, two private surveys showed, adding to signs of stabilisation in the housing market as government curbs start to take the edge off years of sustained gains.

Prices of new homes in 288 major cities in January rose 9.39 percent in January from a year earlier, easing from December's annual rise of 10.04 percent, a poll by real estate services firm E-House China showed on Saturday.

That was the slowest gain in nine months, snapping seven consecutive months of double-digit annual gains.

A separate survey by the China Real Estate Index System (CREIS) showed average prices in the 100 biggest cities rose 0.63 percent in January from December, when they had risen 0.7 percent, to post a 20th straight month gain.

On average, prices rose 11.1 percent in January from a year earlier, CREIS said in a statement, moderating from 11.5 percent annual gains in December and marking the first easing in annual gains since January 2013.

"Many local governments have tightened property market curbs since the fourth quarter in 2013 and these measures have cooled the local markets," said CREIS, a consultancy linked to China's largest online property information firm, Soufun Holdings .

Home supply and sales in most cities dropped to seasonal low levels in January due to the Lunar New Year, which also helped cap home prices, CREIS added.

China's property market began to show signs of stabilising at the end of 2013, with home price rises easing in some major cities as local governments took further tightening measures in November.

Still, China's home prices are at record highs and well beyond the reach of ordinary people, suggesting Beijing won't let up on its tightening campaign anytime soon.

The hot land market in major cities continued to challenge policymakers. Residential land prices hit records in Shanghai and Hangzhou in January, which may fuel speculation that China's home prices will continue to rise in key cities in 2014.

A parcel of land in a suburb of Shanghai sold for a record 10.1 billion yuan ($1.67 billion) at auction on Tuesday, the most expensive plot of residential land ever sold in the city.

China's statistics bureau is due to publish official home prices data for 70 major cities for January on Feb.24. (Reporting By Xiaoyi Shao and Jonathan Standing; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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