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Singapore says it's watching housing market amid 'correction'

[SINGAPORE] Singapore is closely watching the domestic housing market that's in a correction phase amid the longest decline in 13 years, according to Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

The government has sought to temper the market after home prices experienced five to six years of a "sharp up-cycle," he said at an Economic Society of Singapore event on Friday. Residential-property sales slumped 42 per cent in June from May to the lowest level this year, official data last month showed.

"We went about it in a very determined way in the past four years," Shanmugaratnam said of measures to cool prices. "We've succeeded in tempering the market, it's now in a phase of correction. But we're still watching it very closely."

Singapore home prices have fallen for seven consecutive quarters through June as tighter mortgage curbs cooled demand in Asia's second-most expensive housing market. The ruling People's Action Party is preparing for general elections that are expected to be called soon.

"Housing is critical, a unique part of the Singapore story," said Shanmugaratnam, who's also deputy prime minister. "The Asian markets always go through these cycles in the property market, and you've got to do something to temper it."

The government started introducing residential-property curbs in 2009. Measures to combat low interest rates, which drew demand from foreign buyers, have accelerated since to include a cap on debt repayment at 60 per cent of a borrower's monthly income and higher stamp duties on home purchases.