China's Home Price Gains Accelerate Led by Smaller Cities

(Bloomberg) -- China’s home prices rose at the fastest pace in three months in March, fueled by gains in smaller cities, even as the government maintained a two-year campaign to cool the housing market.

New-home prices across 70 cities gained 0.42 percent from a month earlier, according to Bloomberg calculations based on Wednesday’s data from the National Bureau of Statistics. That compared with a 0.25 percent increase in February.

The biggest gains came in the smaller so-called third-tier cities, where buying restrictions are looser and a push by the government to redevelop slums is giving an extra boost to demand. Officials are trying to tame prices across the country without causing any excessive property slowdown. Prices rose 0.94 percent in those smaller cities.

The latest data add to mixed signs for the market after home sales grew at a weaker pace in March, according to a government release on Tuesday. China’s biggest developer by sales, Country Garden Holdings Co., this month said the firm’s turnover was “too slow,” threatening to fine or dismiss staff who missed targets for getting projects to market.

In the biggest cities, prices edged up an average of 0.1 percent, ending seven months of declines, according to Bloomberg calculations. Prices rose 0.2 percent in Shanghai and Guangzhou and 0.1 percent in Beijing, dipping 0.1 percent in Shenzhen.

Developers are contending with home purchase restrictions across at least 125 cities, according to data provider Fang Holdings Ltd. The island of Hainan -- known as China’s Hawaii and the site of a planned free-trade zone -- was among the latest places to expand curbs.

Home prices, excluding government-subsidized housing, increased in 55 of the 70 cities in March, compared with 44 in February.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

With assistance from Emma Dong

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