By Kevin Yao and Yawen Chen
BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s property investment growth eased in April as higher borrowing costs and increased curbs on buyers weighed on demand, backing views that a key driver of the economy is gradually losing momentum.
Real estate investment rose 10.2 percent in April from the same period a year earlier, compared with a 10.8 percent rise in March, according to Reuters calculation based on National Bureau of Statistics data. The figure mainly focuses on residential real estate but also includes commercial and office space.
Real estate directly affects 40 other business sectors in China and is a major driver for the economy but a furious market boom since 2016 has raised concerns and prompted a flurry of government measures to tame soaring home prices.
In the first four months of the year, investment grew 10.3 percent from a year earlier, slowing slightly from the first quarter when growth hit 10.4 percent, its fastest in three years, driven by surging land prices and a boom in demand from smaller cities where home purchase conditions are less restrictive.
Some major cities such as Shanghai and Hangzhou have seen a surge in the marketing of new home developments over the past two months as authorities reduced curbs, with developers also eager to ramp up the launches to boost their cashflow.
However, growth is expected to cool with a government crackdown on risky borrowing triggering worries about future financing, indicating growing liquidity pressure facing Chinese property developers.
New construction starts measured by floor area, an indicator of developers’ confidence, were up 2.9 percent in April from a year earlier, after a sharp jump of 17.8 percent in March, Reuters calculations showed.
Property sales by floor area fell 4.1 percent in April on-year, compared with a 3.2 percent rise in March, in signs of softer demand as stringent curbs continue to take the heat out of the market.
In year-to-date terms, property sales rose just 1.3 percent in the first four months, the smallest increase since 2015 compared to the previous Jan-April periods.
New household loans, mostly mortgages, slowed to 528.4 billion yuan in April from 580 billion yuan in March, according to central bank data released last week.
While demand appears to be softening, a government think tank said on Monday that the property market remains frothy and is still subject to volatility.
China’s new home prices rose for their 35th consecutive month in March, with more cities reporting growth as the government supported demand from first-time buyers. The April figures are due on Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Lusha Zhang; Editing by Sam Holmes)