BEIJING At least two major Chinese private providers of home price data have stopped publishing the figures, at a time when economists are split whether the red-hot property market will remain a driver of the economy in 2017.
The China Index Academy, a unit of U.S.-listed Fang Holdings, has stopped distributing monthly housing price index data for 100 cities that it usually issued at the start of the month.
The academy told Reuters on Friday it had suspended distribution indefinitely, without giving a reason for the suspension.
"I don't know who exactly is making the order, and it's not mandatory," said a source with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified as the topic is a sensitive one.
Home price data from private providers tends to show sharper increases than official data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which publishes monthly and annual percentage changes in 70 major cities.
New-home prices grew the most last year since 2011, NBS data published on Friday show. Growth moderated in December as 12 of 15 cities previously singled out by authorities as overheating saw price declines, an increase from November. [nL4N1F72OH]
Since last summer, the government has levied curbs on buying and ownership to rein in soaring prices and limit asset bubble risks.
E-house China, another influential private real estate consultancy, has also indefinitely suspended its monthly housing price index for 288 cities.
"Judged by current conditions, we won't publish it in the future," said Cherilyn Tsui, a public relations officer at CRIC, the consultancy's real estate research branch.
"We stopped distributing prices data a few months ago. At first it was just no external distribution, but now even internally we don't distribute any more," she told Reuters.
Tsui said she did not know the reason for the halt, but data on sales volumes and inventories would still be published.
"Housing prices are an extremely sensitive matter right now," a second source with knowledge of the matter said on condition of anonymity.
E-house's last data release in November said new home prices in Beijing and Shanghai rose 1.32 percent and 1.09 percent in October, respectively, on the month. The NBS reported an increase of 0.5 percent.
In China Index Academy's last data release in December, new home prices in Beijing and Shanghai rose 0.84 percent and 0.88 percent in November, while the NBS reported prices unchanged.
The NBS usually publishes price data around the 19th of the month, and private providers issue it earlier.
The NBS denied it had ordered the data suspension. "We didn't ask that. It's not true," an NBS representative told Reuters by telephone, when asked if it had asked private real estate consultants to halt distribution.
(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Ryan Woo; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)