China's red-hot property market shows no signs of slowing

May 20, 2013: 1:12 AM ET
china property
Property prices in China increased again in April.
HONG KONG (CNNMoney)

Property prices continued to rise last month in China, defying policymakers who have sought to cool the housing market while preserving robust economic growth.

Housing prices rose in 68 of 70 Chinese cities in April when compared to the previous month, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Compared to last year, prices were higher in all but two of the 70 cities tracked by the government.

Prices in the capital, Beijing, registered one of the largest increases, rising 10.3% over the previous year. In the southern manufacturing hub of Shenzhen, prices jumped 11.3%.

On average, new home prices across the cities increased 4.3% over the previous year.

Fearing the development of a real estate bubble, China has sought to stem rising property prices in recent months. But policymakers have also been forced to consider the broader impact of such policies as China's economy shows signs of slower economic growth.

"This [data] suggests that polices aimed at cooling the property market have not yet tightened sufficiently," said Zhiwei Zhang, an economist at Nomura. "We believe this will add further pressure on the government to tighten monetary policy in the months ahead."

Shanghai's property price boom

China's urban housing costs have grown for much of the last decade, sparking a cycle of government reaction. Earlier this year, the central government directed local governments to rein in housing prices by April 1.

Authorities in Shanghai told banks to stop issuing loans to individuals attempting the purchase of a third home.

Beijing announced that single residents will now be allowed to purchase only one home. Both cities said they would strictly enforce a 20% capital gains tax on income earned in property sales.

The announcements set off a fresh wave of buying to beat the restrictions, and some couples even hatched schemes to skirt ownership restrictions by obtaining a divorce.

Related story: World's biggest mall a China 'ghost town'

Yet additional measures may be required if the market does not soon show signs of deceleration.

Citing rampant speculation and poor planning, some China analysts are worried about the development -- and possible deflation -- of a housing bubble. Chinese citizens have limited investment options, and real estate is a popular choice for those looking to expand their portfolio.

Yet other analysts insist that fears of a bubble are overstated. Hundreds of millions of Chinese are expected to move from rural areas to cities over the next decade, they say, and demand is likely to remain strong.

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