|Photo taken on Feb. 22, 2014 shows residential apartment buildings under construction in Shijiazhang, capital of north China's Hebei Province. Housing prices dropped month on month in more Chinese cities in January, according to statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Feb. 24. Of a statistical pool of 70 major Chinese cities, 62 saw a month-on-month rise in new home prices, while prices in six cities declined. (Xinhua/Zhu Xudong)
BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- Home prices dropped last month in more Chinese cities, more signs of a gradually cooling property sector, official data showed on Monday.
Of 70 major Chinese cities, 62 saw monthly rises in new home prices, while prices in six cities declined in January, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said in a statement. New home prices fell in only two cities in December.
The average monthly increase for new homes slowed slightly to 0.49 percent last month from 0.51 percent in December, with the average in the four first-tier cities -- Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen -- slowing 0.1 percentage point from December, the statement said.
Prices of existing homes also moderated, declining in 13 cities, as opposed to only five in December.
Senior NBS statistician Liu Jianwei partly attributed the moderation to government measures to stabilize the market, including increasing supply of affordable housing.
Liu also blamed tighter credit. Since the beginning of year, commercial banks have become wary of lending to the property sector after a liquidity crunch last year.
Industrial Bank suspended loans to some property projects until the end of March, as well as steel, cement, construction and other sectors related to property. Industrial Bank's unilateral action is a reminder of risk in the property sector this year.
"Due to tight liquidity, if problems arise, they will be hard to deal with," the Shanghai Securities News cited a minute from the bank as saying Monday.
Lu Ting, chief China economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said Industrial Bank had not cut off all funding to developers. The fields named account for only a small fraction of property exposure, with the majority being through normal mortgage financing.
"The Industrial Bank's decision may suggest some changes in its perception of the property sector," he said.