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Australia home prices climb 1.3% in January

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Home prices across Australia's capital cities got the year off to a strong start as sharp rises in Melbourne and Sydney more than made up for pockets of softness elsewhere, an industry survey showed on Monday.

[SYDNEY] Home prices across Australia's capital cities got the year off to a strong start as sharp rises in Melbourne and Sydney more than made up for pockets of softness elsewhere, an industry survey showed on Monday.

Figures from property consultant CoreLogic RPData showed dwelling prices in all of Australia's major cities rose 1.3 per cent in January, from December, to be 8 per cent higher than a year earlier.

The re-acceleration in prices is a complication for the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) which is under pressure to cut interest rates to help offset sharp falls in export prices and a round of easing elsewhere in the world.

Rising home prices have been seen as necessary to encourage a much-needed revival in home building, but the RBA has been less pleased by debt-fuelled property speculation in the inner cities of Sydney and Melbourne.

Monday's data showed home prices in Melbourne jumped 2.7 per cent in January, from the previous month, to be up 7 per cent for the year. Sydney boasted gains of 1.4 per cent in the month and 13 per cent for the year.

In contrast, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin all saw price declines in January.

The median price of a home in Sydney was A$723,000 (S$760,000), compared to A$561,000 in Melbourne and A$555,000 across all the major cities.

RP Data's head of research, Tim Lawless, did note that the annual pace of home price growth had cooled to 8 per cent from the 2014 peak of 11.5 per cent. Prices outside the major cities rose only 2.1 per cent for the year. "This slower rate of appreciation should provide some comfort to regulators that housing demand is starting to taper, despite the historically low interest rate environment," said Mr Lawless.

Regulators have already stepped up their supervision of bank mortgage lending to make sure they were not taking on too much risk, and further macroprudential measures could be considered.

REUTERS