China’s real estate investment slows as caution sinks in

Real estate worries are adding to broader economic growth worries in China. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2018

China’s real estate investment slows as caution sinks in

  • Property increases downside risks to economy
  • September new construction starts up by a fifth

BEIJING: Growth in China’s real estate investment eased in September and home sales fell for the first time since April, as developers dialled back expansion plans amid economic uncertainties and as additional curbs on speculative investment kicked in.
A cooling market could increase the downside risks to the world’s second-largest economy, which faces broader headwinds including an intensifying trade war with the United States.
However, while analysts acknowledge increasing caution in the property market, they say investment levels are still relatively high, suggesting a hard landing remains unlikely.
Growth in real estate investment, which mainly focuses on residential but also includes commercial and office space, rose 8.9 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with a 9.2 percent rise in August, Reuters calculated from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data out on Friday.
“I think overall, China’s real estate market is still resilient, and the decline in sales is within our expectations,” said Virginia Huang, Managing Director of A&T Services, CBRE Greater China.
“There is no sign that the government has relaxed their control, but it still has many methods and tools to support the market if the economy deteriorates rapidly,” Huang said.
Real estate has been one of the few bright spots in China’s investment landscape, partly due to robust sales in smaller cities where a government clampdown on speculation has been not as aggressive as it is in larger cities.
The market has struggled as authorities continued to keep a tight grip over the sector, ramping up control in hundreds of cities. Transactions fell sharply over the period dubbed “Golden September and Silver October,” traditionally a high season for new home sales.
Property sales by floor area fell 3.6 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with a 2.4 percent gain in August, according to Reuters calculations, the first decline since April. In year-to-date terms, property sales rose 2.9 percent in the first three quarters.
China’s central bank governor Yi Gang said last week he still sees plenty of room for adjustment in interest rates and the reserve requirement ratio (RRR), as downside risks from trade tensions with the United States remain significant.
The government has implemented four RRR cuts this year, releasing hundreds of billions in new liquidity to the market.
China has for several years pushed a deleveraging campaign to reduce financial risks, clamping down on shadow banking and closing many “grey” financing channels for real estate firms.
For many highly leveraged developers, there are already signs of increasing caution as exemplified by a surge in failed land auctions due to tight liquidity and thinning margins.
New construction starts measured by floor area, an indicator of developers’ expansion appetite, rose 20.3 percent in September from a year earlier, compared with a 26.6 percent gain in August, Reuters calculations showed.
That’s against the backdrop of seemingly looser funding conditions for China’s real estate developers, who raised 12.2 trillion yuan ($1.76 trillion) in the first nine months, up 7.8 percent from the same period a year earlier, the NBS said.
The growth rate compared with a 6.9 percent increase in January-August period.
“Many developers will face lots of maturing debt by the end of this year, and there are perceived risks in the economy, so they will be more cautious,” Huang said.
China’s housing ministry is considering putting an end to the pre-sale system that developers use to secure capital quickly, in an effort to crack down on financial risks in the property sector.
China’s home prices held up well in August, defying property curbs. But analysts expect additional regulatory tightening and slowing economic growth will soon take the wind out of the property market’s sails.
The National Bureau of Statistics will release September official home price data on Saturday.


Virus threatens fragile Turkish economy

Updated 31 March 2020

Virus threatens fragile Turkish economy

  • The death toll in Turkey is 168 with 10,827 recorded cases of the virus but the fear is that the situation could get much worse
  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced earlier this month a $15 billion package to support the economy

ANKARA: The Turkish economy was healing after a recession when the new coronavirus struck, leaving Ankara scrambling to contain the damage with stimulus measures worth billions and facing demands to do much more.
The death toll in Turkey is 168 with 10,827 recorded cases of the virus but the fear is that the situation could get much worse.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced earlier this month a $15 billion package to support the economy, with tax cuts for businesses and measures to help low-income households.
While business leaders and analysts agreed Ankara’s measures would benefit companies, experts warned of higher unemployment and lower growth.
They also pointed to the possible devastating impact on tourism which employs hundreds of thousands of people.
The concern is that before the outbreak, the economy was growing only tentatively after a currency crisis in 2018.
Moody’s ratings agency said among the G20, it expected Turkey “to be hit the hardest, with a cumulative contraction in second- and third-quarter GDP of about 7.0 percent” in 2020.
But as recently as March 19, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said he did “not see any risks to the economy for now” and was still aiming to meet the ambitious target of five percent growth for 2020.
“The shock will likely take a large toll on tourism-related sectors through the summer,” Moody’s added.
Last year, tourism income rose 17 percent to $34.5 billion while the number of visitors increased nearly 14 percent to about 52 million.

In an outdoor market in Ankara, residents were concerned about unemployment while traders were worried about keeping their households afloat.
Selling vegetables, trader Mehmet Arslan said the situation was “difficult” because his customers, mostly those above 65, have been told to stay at home.
“If we can’t do this work, how can we live?” the 35-year-old asked.
Other traders said sales were down 70-80 percent.
The jobless rate rose to 13.7 percent in 2019 from 11 percent in 2018, while inflation was 12.37 percent last month.
Among the unemployed, Bilge Ceyhan, 44, said the outbreak worried her.
“How am I going to continue my (job) search? How will the (job) market be after this?” Ceyhan said, adding her savings would not last forever.
Atilla Yesilada, analyst for the GlobalSource think-tank, said Ankara’s measures so far were in line with other countries, “but extremely inadequate given the kind of projections I and other experts have in mind.”
He warned there could be many job losses as more shops shut, and recommended the government offer financial support more easily.


In mid-March, the government said nearly 150,000 businesses had temporarily closed.
“The American way is the safest way: write a cheque, don’t ask questions,” Yesilada said. “You’re doing it to ensure unemployment doesn’t hurt the rest of the economy.”
Erdogan last week announced more measures including $1.1 billion to support workers on the minimum wage after criticism the initial package supported businesses more than employees.
He said 1,000 lira ($155) would be also provided to two million low-income families each.
Finance Minister Albayrak said there would be an employment support scheme to protect jobs which businesses can apply for.

The government budget was “generously” spent last year, Yesilada said, adding Ankara had no cash and that eventually more money could have to be printed.
This in turn would push inflation higher.
But the analyst said Turkey had the option to apply for money from the International Monetary Fund — which Erdogan has previously vowed to avoid.
Cagatay Ozdogru, CEO of Turkey’s largest family-owned investment firm Esas Holding, said the country was in a better position than others and had “advantages,” including a young population and experience with crises.
Domestic demand was robust, he told AFP, adding that once shops started to reopen, customers would return to their usual consumption.
But he suggested Turkey also needed Western economies to get back on their feet, which “could take some time.”
Turkey’s growth would fall in the short-term before improving again, Ozdogru added.
“This is an unprecedented situation, everyone’s making mistakes and 90 percent of what (Ankara) is doing is from the international playbook but they need to do more,” urged Yesilada.