China Jan-Feb property investment down 16.3% y/y, sales plunge by nearly 40%

BEIJING, March 16 (Reuters) - Property investment in China fell at its fastest pace on record in the first two months of the year, as home sales, construction and other economic activity all nosedived due to the coronavirus outbreak, data showed on Monday.

Real estate investment, which mainly focuses on the residential sector but includes commercial and office space, fell 16.3% in the first two months of the year. The was the worst contraction since Reuters records based on official data began in 2008, and compared with 7.3% growth in December, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.

China’s property market ground to a standstill in February along with many other businesses as the fast spreading coronavirus and strict containment measures kept buyers at home.

Property sales by floor area fell 39.9% year-on-year in the first two months of 2020, deepening a decline from December 2019 and also marking the worst performance on record, according to Reuters calculations based on the official data.

New construction starts measured by floor area were also much weaker, falling 44.9% in January-February year-on-year, compared with a 7.4% gain in December.

Funds raised by China’s property developers shrank 17.5% in the same period, compared with the 7.6% gain in 2019.

The NBS does not release individual monthly investment data for January or February but combines them to account for the seasonal distortions from the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, which can fall in either month. The holiday was extended this year as the government tried to contain the outbreak, which is expected to halve first-quarter economic growth. (Reporting by Yawen Chen and Huizhong Wu; Editing by Sam Holmes)