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China's house prices advance at slower pace

CHINA'S house prices rose at a slower pace last year after slowing economic growth coupled with a global recession deterred home buyers, the National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday.

House prices in 70 major cities countrywide gained an overall 6.5 percent in 2008, 1.1 percentage point lower from a year earlier, Ma Jiantang, head of the bureau, told a press conference held in Beijing by the State Information Office.

House prices in the country dipped 0.4 percent year on year in December, the first decline on record.

There has been a series of major setbacks to China's housing market since the second half of last year amid slowing economic growth in the country as well as a deteriorating global financial situation. Transaction volumes tumbled in many cities while prices stopped rising as a lackluster momentum among home buyers prevailed.

In Shanghai, transaction volume and sales of new homes, excluding those designated for relocation uses, both plunged more than 40 percent to 19.65 million square meters and 160.84 billion yuan (US$23.52 billion), respectively in 2008, the local statistics bureau said on Wednesday. In the second-hand housing market, transaction volume also dived 29.1 percent to 14.13 million square meters.

Compared to the sales tumble, home prices dropped rather mildly during the period. Sale prices of new homes fell 1.9 percent in 2008 from a year earlier while those of used apartments lost 1.7 percent, according to the bureau.

However, total investment in the city's housing sector still edged up 0.7 percent to 84.36 billion yuan last year.

Experts, who called for more forceful measures to boost the market, said home prices will dip further and a substantial pickup in sales can be seen if major price cuts are offered by property developers.


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