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China to stabilize property market in 2015

2015-03-06 09:03 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

China will stabilize its property market this year, with tailored, market-based policies to guide "stable and healthy development," according to the government work report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang Thursday.[Special coverage]

China's property market began to see prices and sales volume slump last year, prompting authorities to loosen regulations previously put in place to rein in skyrocketing prices fueled by speculative buying.

The correction forced property investment growth to slide to 10.5 percent last year from 19.8 percent in 2013, dampening demand for commodities ranging from iron ore to copper, and dragging down headline growth.

The government set its annual economic growth target to "around 7 percent" this year, down from 7.5 percent last year. The world's second largest economy slowed to a 24 year low of 7.4 percent during the same period.

Home supply has generally exceeded demand after years of aggressive investment in real estate, though divergence is becoming more apparent between metropolises and lower-tier cities.

The property slump will continue this year. Property information provider Centaline said that developers' overseas financing plummeted by more than 70 percent during the first two months of 2015.

Seventy-seven out of 100 economists polled by Xinhua-affiliated newspaper Economic Information Daily and the macro-economic study center at Xiamen University say declining real estate investment has become a major downside risk facing the economy, undercutting fiscal revenue and blowing up risks over local government debt.

"The rhetoric [of stabilizing the property market] doesn't mean the government will bail out the market. Sound economic growth in China needs a relatively stable property market." said Cao Honghui, vice president of the research institute at China Development Bank, one of the country's three policy lenders.

While the property market is unlikely to see the explosive investment and growth of the past, Cao said, the government will not tolerate a steep slowdown that carries with it the potential to bankrupt developers and rile financial markets.

Long Guoqiang, vice director of the State Council's Development Research Center, said the property bubble would likely burst in some regions, where real estate is feeling heavy pressure after a decade of rapid expansion, forcing certain developers to go out of business.

"But that's how things go in a market-based economy," Long said.

Extensive investment in real estate goes against economic restructuring, and the government has learned a hard lesson. Any effort to stabilize the property market this year has to be market based, according to Cao.

Analysts say demand is still growing, albeit slowly, as the ongoing urbanization drive and demand for improved living conditions will provide support for the market. And some of these demands will be met through the government's affordable housing program.

"More than 1 million people go to cities in Henan Province each year and 40 million urban dwellers want to move to a better home. Together they create enough demand for developers," said Hu Baosen, a deputy to the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, and also chairman of Central China Real Estate Ltd., a Hong Kong-listed property firm.

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