[BEIJING] China's home prices fell in November for a third consecutive month versus year-ago levels, pointing to a persistent property downturn despite efforts by authorities to energise the market.
Average home prices in 70 major Chinese cities fell 3.7 per cent last month, after a fall of 2.6 per cent fall in October, according to Reuters calculations from data published on Thursday by the National Bureau of Statistics(NBS).
That was the biggest drop since Reuters started calculating nationwide housing prices in 2011, when the NBS stopped issuing nationwide price data.
The deceleration in the property market, which accounts for about 15 percent of China's economy, will intensify concerns that a softening housing sector would hold back economic growth.
"We see GDP growth cooling further to 7 per cent in Q4 2014, and to 6.8 per cent in 2015 from 2014's anticipated 7.3 per cent, as property-related headwinds offset any uplift from the US recovery or intensifying policy support," Tao Wang, China economist at UBS, said in a note.
The NBS data showed new home prices fell year-on-year in 68 of the 70 major cities it monitors, up from 67 cities in October.
The price news followed data last week that showed further signs of economic fatigue in the world's second largest economy, with factory growth and investment expansion slowing in November.
China's real estate market has been plagued by falling prices and high inventories in recent months, crimping demand in 40 economic sectors ranging from steel to cement and furniture.
While the housing market is expected to remain weak well into next year, it is showing some tentative signs of bottoming out.
Official data last week showed property sales hit 132.2 million sq m in November, the highest level in the past 11 months, though still down 11.1 per cent from the same period a year earlier.
The housing market could get a further boost from policy easing by the central bank, which unexpectedly cut interest rates on Nov. 21 to shore up flagging economic growth. "The recovery momentum is still weak," said a senior executive at a mid-sized listed developer in Beijing, noting noted the market may have already found the bottom of the cycle. "The property market should not get worse in future," he said.