October 19, 2017 / 7:08 AM / a year ago

China stocks fall as GDP growth cools, property sales soft

SHANGHAI, Oct 19 (Reuters) - China stocks fell on Thursday after slightly slower economic growth in the third quarter and soft property sales caused concern the economy will see further cooling.

While the dip in second quarter growth to 6.8 percent from 6.9 percent was in line with economists’ forecasts, some investors had bet on a stronger reading after comments by central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan at the weekend.

Zhou said growth may hit 7 percent in the second half of this year.

The blue-chip CSI300 index fell 0.3 percent, to 3,931.25 points. The Shanghai Composite Index also lost 0.3 percent, to 3,370.17 points.

“To some extent, Zhou’s comments had disturbed market expectations,” said Li Huiyong, economist at Shenwan Hongyuan Securities Co, pointing to a rebound in 10-year treasuries on Thursday following the previous day’s sell-off triggered by expectations of higher growth.

While China’s full-year 2017 growth should easily beat the government’s target of around 6.5 percent, economists believe it will lose momentum next year as property cooling measures and a crackdown on riskier types of lending bite.

Most sectors fell on Thursday.

Developers lost 0.9 percent, after data showed property sales dropped for the first time since March 2015 in September and housing starts slowed sharply. Although property investment picked up, analysts noted it often lags sales trends.

Rafael Halpin, head of research at NSBO Research, said President Xi Jinping’s Wednesday comment that “houses are built to be inhabited, not for speculation” reinforced views that authorities’ efforts to reduce speculation will continue.

Industry and heavyweight financial firms also lost ground.

Bucking Thursday’s trend, consumer and healthcare firms rallied, as investors sought shelter in defensive plays. (Reporting by Luoyan Liu and John Ruwitch; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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