China September home prices rise at record rate, stretching affordability further

October 20, 2016 11:14 PM EDT

Residential buildings are seen at the Binhai new district in Tianjin, China, October 18, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon


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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's new home prices rose in September at the fastest rate on record as buyers rushed to close contracts before new restrictive measures took effect in October.

The boom in sales and prices was evident in mortgage lending, with new housing loans to individuals totaling 475.9 billion yuan in September alone, some 76 percent higher than the same month last year, central bank official Ruan Jianhong said in a news release.

Prices in China's 70 major cities rose 11.2 percent in September from a year earlier, accelerating from a 9.2 percent increase in August, as 64 of them saw year-on-year price gains, a National Bureau of Statistics survey showed on Friday.

September's national price growth was the fastest since the series was started in 2011.

The property market, accounting for around 15 percent of gross domestic product, contributed handsomely to third quarter economic expansion of 6.7 percent.

Hefei, capital city of Anhui province in central China, was the top performer, with prices surging 46.8 percent from a year earlier, quicker than its 40.3 percent rise in August.

The coastal city of Xiamen in southeastern China, the top performer in August, came in second with a price rise of 46.5 percent, accelerating from 43.8 percent in the previous month.

Beijing and Shanghai prices rose 27.8 percent and 32.7 percent on-year, quickening from 23.5 percent and 31.2 percent in August. Price growth in Shenzhen, a long-time top performer that gave way to Xiamen to be the second highest in August, fell slightly to 34.1 percent from 36.8 percent last month.

The house-prices-to-household-disposable-income ratio in first-tier cities has risen to be around 18 to 20 times in this year's housing fever, putting housing affordability close to Hong Kong's and making it less affordable than London, UBS wrote in a report, citing notoriously expensive cities.

COOLING DOWN A RED-HOT MARKET

More than 20 cities have now adopted restrictive measures aiming to tame fast-rising prices, although 15 cities had implemented them in the first week of October.

"Out of the 15 cities, probably half of them put out effective measures, such as raising the down payment ratio for second-home purchases to as high as 70 percent," Beijing-based Rosealea Yao of Gavekal Dragonomics said.

"But the rest of the cities are probably just going with the flow, as their measures are more half-hearted."

Yao said aggressive credit tightening, which is regarded as most effective in curbing prices, seems unlikely as the government looks to stimulate economic growth.

But despite clear signs of destocking in some lower-tier cities as sales boom and new construction slips, many small centers still have a large glut of unsold homes.

"The property boom has been a very good thing for destocking, but that doesn't mean the government can just sit back and relax now," she said.

To "reflect changes in the market" and prove the effectiveness of official cooling measures, the NBS rushed in a new table on Friday, which compared price growth in the first half of October to September. It showed price growth in 15 first- and second-tier cities which implemented new measures during the holiday, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Shenzhen, showed signs of cooling on a monthly basis.

This early indication concurs with some analysts who are optimistic about China's efforts to manage over-investment in property.

"We view China's authorities as more like Singapore's and we think it's a matter of time before macro prudential policy slows sales growth," Singapore-based Tim Condon of ING said in a note ahead of the data release.

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Nicholas Heath; Editing by Eric Meijer)



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