BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's new home prices grew at their weakest pace in nearly three years in November, with tightening policies continuing to cool the market even as some easing is expected to prevent a sharp slowdown.
Average new home prices in China's 70 major cities rose 0.3 per cent in November from the previous month, lower than growth reported in October and marking the weakest growth since February 2018, Reuters calculated from official National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data on Monday (Dec 16).
On an annual basis, average new home prices in China's 70 major cities rose 7.1 per cent in November, down from 7.8 per cent in October, and the slowest year-on-year pace since August 2018.
Most of the 70 cities surveyed by the NBS still reported monthly price increases for new homes, but the number was down to 44 from 50 in October.
China has clamped down on property speculation since 2016 to contain a bubbly market, tightening its grip on domestic and onshore financing.
Analysts noted some developers will likely ramp up sales promotion and slash prices towards the end of this year to secure revenue, although a drop in home prices would likely not be tolerated by local governments.
Price trends have remained mixed, with some cities showing signs of rapid cooling while others remain vulnerable to overheating.
Price growth in China's four top-tier cities - Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou - rose 0.6 per cent from a month earlier, quickening from a 0.1 per cent gain in October, the statistics bureau said in a statement accompanying the data.
Tier-2 cities, which include most of the larger provincial capitals, increased 0.2 per cent in November on a monthly basis, compared with a 0.5 per cent gain in the previous month.
Tier-3 cities rose 0.5 per cent on a monthly basis, slower than October's pace.
Chinese top leaders last week reiterated that "homes are for living, not for speculation".
But particularly as the economy slows, policymakers are increasingly mindful not to sink the market entirely - a pillar for the broader economy.
Last week, a city in Jiangsu province reversed a decision to remove a ban on property resale imposed more than two years ago. The removal of the ban - which lasted just a day - briefly fanned speculation that more cities could follow suit.
Such attempts to ease restrictions point to the pressure on local governments to shore up slowing real estate, while not appearing to running counter to the central government's war on speculative buying.
China's house prices are expected to grow 3.1 per cent next year, the lowest over a calendar year since 2015, a Reuters poll showed, with tightening policies continuing to cool the market even as some easing is expected.
"A key headwind will come from property construction, which looks set to slow as the flurry of projects that broke ground a couple of years ago are completed," Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist with Capital Economics, said in a note last week, predicting property controls will remain in place next year.
"To avoid this, the pace of new housing starts would have to jump. That seems unlikely barring a wholesale loosening of property controls."