China's home price rises ease in March - surveys

BEIJING, April 1 Tue Apr 1, 2014 4:42am EDT

BEIJING, April 1 (Reuters) - China's home price inflation continued to slow in March, two private surveys showed on Tuesday, another indication that the country's frothy property market is cooling because of government curbs and tighter liquidity conditions.

Prices of new homes in 288 major cities rose 8.1 percent in March from a year earlier, easing from February's annual rise of 9.1 percent, a poll by real estate services firm E-House China showed.

That was the slowest gain in 11 months and the fifth consecutive month of easing annual gains.

A separate survey by China Real Estate Index System (CREIS) showed average prices in the 100 biggest cities rose 0.4 percent month-on-month in March, versus February's 0.5 percent rise, still the 22nd straight month of gains.

Compared with a year earlier, home prices rose 10.0 percent in March, moderating from a 10.8 percent annual gain in February and marking the third consecutive month of easing annual gains, CREIS said.

China's red-hot property market has lost some steam since late 2013 as local governments tightened controls on speculative buying, and as banks made it harder for home buyers and small developers to get loans.

A Reuters poll of 16 industry watchers published on Tuesday showed that China's home price inflation is likely to slow in 2014 compared with the previous year, though some small cities plagued with oversupply might see a price correction.

"Some developers have priced new projects lower than expectations to boost sales as there are no pronounced signs of a loosening of restrictions on lending to developers and home buyers," said CREIS, a consultancy linked to China's largest online property information firm, Soufun Holdings.

"Most home buyers have kept a wait-and-see approach to the property market as they are not sure about the outlook for the sector," CREIS said in a statement.

Anecdotal evidence has suggested liquidity in the economy has tightened this year, especially to the property industry, as banks are turning more cautious about granting new loans.

Among the country's 10 biggest cities, Hangzhou and Guangzhou saw month-on-month drops of 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, in March, CREIS said. Home price gains eased in eight other cities including Beijing and Shanghai, it said.

Official figures showed China's home price rises slowed to a six-month low in February as some developers started to cut prices. China's statistical bureau is due to publish official home prices data for 70 major cities for March on April 18. (Reporting By Xiaoyi Shao and Jonathan Standing; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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