* China December home prices -0.04 on year, +0.4 on month
* New home prices rise in 54 of 70 cities vs 53 in Nov on
* 2012 property investment +16.2 pct vs +16.7 pct in Jan-Nov
* Mild uptrend seen continuing, curbs to stay
BEIJING, Jan 18 China's home prices extended
their slow rise in December, the fifth month in the last six to
show an increase despite the government efforts to temper
Average home prices in 70 major cities across China rose 0.4
percent in December from the previous month, after a 0.3 percent
rise in November, according to Reuters' calculations based on
data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Friday.
Real estate investment, which accounted for 13.8 percent of
China's gross domestic product in 2012, rose 16.2 percent last
year from a year earlier, slowing from an annual increase of
16.7 percent in January-November.
A modest rise in home prices is thought by analysts to be
acceptable to policymakers as it helps underpin a recovery in
the world's second biggest economy, which grew at 7.8 percent in
2012 - the slowest pace since 1999.
TABLE-China property price change in Dec
China's economy rebounds in Q4
For graphic on home prices link.reuters.com/pek96s
China's government has spent more than two years
implementing policies to rein in speculative real estate
activity that has seen prices pushed far beyond the reach of
many middle class citizens, fuelingsocial discontent.
It remains sensitive to the risk of a sudden upward spike
and government leaders have stressed their intention to keep
curbs in place, leading analysts to fret about the risk of fresh
tightening policies if home prices start to soar.
"I expect there will be a mild increase in home prices in
2013 as the maintenance of home purchase restrictions would
limit the room for sharp rise of home prices," said Shen
Jianguang, China economist at Mizuho Securities in Hong Kong.
"Home prices still risk a sharp rebound if the current
curbing policies continue to reduce house supply. If home prices
jump again, I think the government will step in and take
measures," said Shen.
Rocketing property prices were a major consequence of
China's last economic stimulus effort, the 4 trillion yuan ($635
billion) package launched in 2008 at the depths of the global
A Reuters poll showed in December that economists expected
China's national home prices to rise an annual 7 percent in 2013
and 5 percent in 2014.
China's home prices started to rebound in mid-2012 as the
People's Bank of China began to expand monetary easing as part
of Beijing's growth-supporting policies.
Home prices rose month-on-month in 54 of 70 major cities
monitored by the NBS in December, up from 53 in November,
confirming expectations that the property market is rebounding,
the NBS data showed.
The NBS also said new home prices in Beijing rose 1.6
percent in December from a year earlier, compared with
November's year-on-year increase of 0.7 percent. Shanghai's
prices were flat in December on a year ago, versus a 0.8 percent
annual fall in November.
Property sales rose 10 percent in 2012 compared with a year
earlier, translating into a year-on-year increase of 8.5 percent
in December alone.
Compared with a year ago, however, home prices are still
falling nationwide. The 0.04 percent drop in December was the
tenth such decline but easing from a year-on-year fall of 0.7
percent in November,according to Reuters calculations.
Reuters started its weighted China home price index in
January 2011 when the NBS stopped providing nationwide data. The
NBS now only publishes price changes for each of the 70 major
(Reporting By Xiaoyi Shao and Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Nick
Edwards and Kim Coghill)