Modest gains in China’s new home prices give authorities breathing room

Updated 15 August 2019
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Modest gains in China’s new home prices give authorities breathing room

BEIJING: China’s new home prices rose in July as the property sector held up as one of the few bright spots in the slowing economy, although easing momentum in some markets took immediate pressure off regulators to unleash major new curbs to deter speculation.
Average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities rose 0.6% in July from the previous month, unchanged from growth reported in June and marking the 51st straight month of gains, Reuters calculated based on National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data on Thursday.
On a year-on-year basis, home prices rose at their weakest pace this year in July by 9.7%, slowing from a 10.3% gain in June.
Analysts said the moderate gains were a positive sign the market was not overheating. That helped the CSI300 real estate index recoup some of its earlier heavy losses following a major slide in global stock markets.
“Today’s data is actually pretty good, reflecting that tougher stance and not alarming at all,” said David Ji, Head of Research & Consultancy, Greater China at Knight Frank, referring to central policymakers’ July decision to not use the property market as a form of short-term stimulus.
“If I were a provincial official who has a ‘key performance indicator’ to hit, I would feel happy because it is clearly telling you the property market is off the peak.”
The politburo’s pledge in July not to overly stimulate the property sector, made at a high-profile work meeting, was interpreted by analysts as a warning to the investors against heavy bets on the market.
The Chinese government has clamped down on speculative investment in the housing market since 2016 to prevent a sharp correction as prices soared. There have also been growing concerns that high house prices are pushing up the cost of business and restricting consumer spending.
But efforts by some regional governments to attract talent through home purchase incentives, along with easing credit conditions have kept prices surprisingly resilient this year.
The majority of the 70 cities surveyed by the NBS still reported a monthly price increase for new homes, although the number of cities fell to 60 in July from 63 cities in June.
In a sign the market’s resilience may be waning in parts, property investment slowed to its weakest this year, data showed on Wednesday.
Concerns linger
Chinese authorities have sought in recent years to contain risks in the often volatile property market while not undermining growth in the broader economy.
The property sector directly impacts over 40 industries in China and a fast deterioration would risk adding to pressure the economy, which is slowing due to weak domestic demand and an escalating trade war with the United States.
While tightening measures have been rolled out across hundreds of Chinese cities, price trends have been uneven across the country.
Prices are holding up better than expected particularly in top tier cities, said Rosealea Yao, China investment analyst with Gavekal Dragonomics. Average prices in the four tier-1 cities — Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen rose — 0.3% from a month earlier, quickening from a 0.2% gain in June, NBS data showed.
Pingdingshan, a city of 4.9 million in central Henan province, was the top price performer in July, with a robust monthly gain of 1.6%.
But economists also caution that the negative impact on the sector from the central government’s increasingly hawkish stance will only start to become more pronounced in two to three months.
China’s banks extended surprisingly fewer new yuan loans in July, reflecting subdued demand. New household loans, mostly mortgages, fell to 511.2 billion yuan in July from 671.7 billion yuan in June.
In a meeting on Thursday, the Shenzhen branch of China’s central bank said it will control second half growth of the city’s new real estate loans in a “reasonable” manner, according to state-owned Shanghai Securities News. It did not give details.
Home prices in tier-2 cities, which include most of the larger provincial capitals, increased 0.7% in July versus a 0.8% rise in the previous month. And Tier-3 cities rose 0.7% on a monthly basis, in line with June’s pace.
“I expect housing policies to tighten in China, especially for local governments that has infrastructure projects to support local GDP growth,” said Iris Pang, Greater China economist at ING.


Squabbles erupt as G7 leaders open summit in French resort

Updated 25 August 2019
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Squabbles erupt as G7 leaders open summit in French resort

  • Disputes on trade, climate may eclipse Macron’s agenda
  • EU’s Tusk warns of lack of global unity, spars with Johnson

BIARRITZ, France: Squabbles erupted among G7 nations on Saturday as their leaders gathered for an annual summit, exposing sharp differences on global trade tensions, Britain’s exit from the EU and how to respond to the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest.
French President Emmanuel Macron, the summit host, planned the three-day meeting in the Atlantic seaside resort of Biarritz as a chance to unite a group of wealthy countries that has struggled in recent years to speak with one voice.
Macron set an agenda for the group — France, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — that included the defense of democracy, gender equality, education and the environment. He invited Asian, African and Latin American leaders to join them for a global push on these issues.
However, in a bleak assessment of relations between once-close allies, European Council President Donald Tusk said it was getting “increasingly” hard to find common ground.
“This is another G7 summit which will be a difficult test of unity and solidarity of the free world and its leaders,” he told reporters ahead of the meeting. “This may be the last moment to restore our political community.”
US President Donald Trump had brought last year’s G7 summit to an acrimonious end, walking out early from the gathering in Canada and rejecting the final communique.
Trump arrived in France a day after responding to a new round of Chinese tariffs by announcing that Washington would impose an additional 5% duty on some $550 billion worth of Chinese imports, the latest escalation of the tit-for-tat trade war by the world’s two largest economies.
“So far so good,” Trump told reporters as he sat on a seafront terrace with Macron, saying the two leaders had a special relationship. “We’ll accomplish a lot this weekend.”
Macron listed foreign policy issues the two would address, including Libya, Syria and North Korea, and said they shared the objective of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Trump later wrote on Twitter that lunch with Macron was the best meeting the pair has yet had, and that a meeting with world leaders on Saturday evening also “went very well.”
However, the initial smiles could not disguise the opposing approaches of Trump and Macron to many problems, including the knotty questions of protectionism and tax.
Before his arrival, Trump repeated a threat to tax French wines in retaliation for a new French levy on digital services, which he says unfairly targets US companies.
Two US officials said the Trump delegation was also irked that Macron had skewed the focus of the G7 meeting to “niche issues” at the expense of the global economy, which many leaders worry is slowing sharply and at risk of slipping into recession.
French riot police used water cannons and tear gas on Saturday to disperse anti-capitalism protesters in Bayonne, near Biarritz. A police helicopter circled as protesters taunted lines of police.
The leaders themselves were gathering behind tight security in a waterfront conference venue, the surrounding streets barricaded by police.

Spat over ‘Mr. No Deal’ Brexit
Macron opened the summit with a dinner at the base of a clifftop lighthouse overlooking Biarritz, where a menu of piperade, a Basque vegetable specialty, tuna and French cheeses awaited the leaders.
Adding to the unpredictable dynamic between the G7 leaders are the new realities facing Brexit-bound Britain: dwindling influence in Europe and growing dependency on the United States.
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson will want to strike a balance between not alienating Britain’s European allies and not irritating Trump and possibly jeopardizing future trade ties. Johnson and Trump will hold bilateral talks on Sunday morning.
Johnson and Tusk sparred before the summit over who would be to blame if Britain leaves the EU on Oct. 31 without a withdrawal agreement.
Tusk told reporters he was open to ideas from Johnson on how to avoid a no-deal Brexit when the two men meet.
“I still hope that PM Johnson will not like to go down in history as Mr.No Deal,” said Tusk, who as council president leads the political direction of the 28-nation European Union.
Johnson, who has said since he took office last month that he will take Britain out of the bloc on Oct. 31 regardless of whether a deal can be reached, later retorted that it would be Tusk himself who would carry the mantle if Britain could not secure a new withdrawal agreement.
“I would say to our friends in the EU if they don’t want a no-deal Brexit then we’ve got to get rid of the backstop from the treaty,” Johnson told reporters, referring to the Irish border protocol that would keep the border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland open after Brexit.
“If Donald Tusk doesn’t want to go down as Mr.No Deal then I hope that point will be borne in mind by him, too,” Johnson said on his flight to France.
Johnson is trying to persuade EU leaders to drop the backstop from a withdrawal agreement that was negotiated by his predecessor but rejected three times by the British Parliament as the United Kingdom struggles to fulfill a 2016 referendum vote to leave the bloc.

‘Not the way to proceed’
Despite the Brexit tensions, diplomats played down the likelihood of Trump and Johnson joining hands against the rest, citing Britain’s foreign policy alignment with Europe on issues from Iran and trade to climate change.
“There won’t be a G5+2,” one senior G7 diplomat said.
Indeed, Johnson said he would tell Trump to pull back from a trade war that is already destabilising economic growth around the world.
“This is not the way to proceed,” he said. “Apart from everything else, those who support the tariffs are at risk of incurring the blame for the downturn in the global economy, irrespective of whether or not that is true.”
Anti-summit protests have become common, and on Saturday thousands of anti-globalization activists, Basque separatists and “yellow vest” protesters marched peacefully across France’s border with Spain to demand action from the leaders.
“It’s more money for the rich and nothing for the poor,” said Alain Missana, an electrician wearing a yellow vest — symbol of anti-government protests that have rattled France for months.
EU leaders piled pressure on Friday on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over fires raging in the Amazon rainforest.
Even so, Britain and Germany were at odds with Macron’s decision to pressure Brazil by blocking a trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur group of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said not concluding the trade deal was “not the appropriate answer to what is happening in Brazil now.”
The UK’s Johnson appeared to disagree with Macron on how to respond. “There are all sorts of people who will take any excuse at all to interfere with trade and to frustrate trade deals and I don’t want to see that,” he said.