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Property woes persist in China

CHINA’s home prices sank for a 13th month in September, underscoring President Xi Jinping’s challenge to arrest a slumping property market after he secured power for a historic third term.

New-home prices in 70 cities, excluding state-subsidized housing, dropped 0.28% last month from August, when they fell 0.29%, National Bureau of Statistics figures showed Monday. The second-hand market fared worse, with existing-home prices declining 0.39%, the most since October 2014.

China’s housing market remains fragile despite a wave of measures to restore confidence that’s been battered by COVID Zero and a debt crisis among cash-strapped developers. Separate government figures showed home sales and property investment continued to fall last month, though the pace of declines eased.

“Potential buyers hold a wait-and-see attitude,” Raymond Cheng, head of China and Hong Kong research at CGS-CIMB Securities, said before the data release. “Although there are increasing supportive policies from both regulators and local governments recently, it takes time for the effects to trickle through.”

Chinese authorities have eased home ownership rules, trimmed interest rates and urged banks to step up lending in a bid to turn around the ailing property market, which remains a drag on the world’s second-largest economy. Hopes for more substantive industry support have dimmed after President Xi gave little signal of a deeper shift in policies on housing or COVID Zero during the ruling party’s congress.

A Bloomberg gauge of Chinese developer shares tumbled as much as 4%, part of a broader sell-off of the country’s stocks after President Xi stacked his leadership ranks with loyalists.

Home sales fell 15% in September from a year earlier, improving from a 21% decline in August, according to Bloomberg calculations based on cumulative figures released by the statistics bureau following a delay during the party congress. Real estate investment slid 12% year on year, after dropping 14% in August.

A recent central bank survey showed 73% of households expect property prices to stay unchanged or decline in the near term, highlighting dwindling consumer confidence amid bleak job prospects and a weakening economy. — Bloomberg

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