BEIJING, April 16 (Xinhua) -- China continued to see a generally stable housing market in March, with home prices in 70 major cities showing milder month-on-month increases, official data showed Thursday.
New home prices in four first-tier cities -- Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou -- went up 0.2 percent in March, which stayed unchanged month-on-month in February, according to the data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
The country's second-tier cities saw a month-on-month increase of 0.3 percent in new home prices, up 0.2 percentage points from the previous month, while third-tier cities also witnessed a mild month-on-month rise of 0.2 percent in new home prices, compared with a 0.1-percent increase reported in February.
Last month, prices of resold housing in first-tier cities edged up 0.5 percent month-on-month, with the growth expanding by 0.3 percentage points from the previous month, while that in second- and third-tier cities rose 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent month-on-month, respectively.
As the domestic situation of combating the COVID-19 epidemic has been moving steadily in a positive direction and the resumption of production and living orders accelerated, the overstocked demands for home purchases due to the epidemic was gradually unleashed last month, said Kong Peng, a senior NBS statistician.
There was no transaction of both new and resold homes in Wuhan, the city once hardest hit by the disease, and their prices were deemed unchanged.
The gloomy property market since the coronavirus outbreak has led to a build-up in unsold inventory, but analysts predict the situation will gradually ease in major cities as transactions are likely to rebound.
Data from the property research institution CRIC showed housing inventory in 50 monitored cities stood at 304.32 million square meters by the end of March, up 11 percent from the volume seen in the same period last year.
Transactions in the property market witnessed recovering to some extent in most cities last month and momentum was sustained through the first half of April, according to Zhang Dawei, a chief analyst with the real estate agency Centaline Property.
Currently, market transactions have neared to around 70 percent of the volume in the same period last year, he said.
On Wednesday, the central bank further lowered the rate of 100 billion yuan (about 14.2 billion U.S. dollars) worth of one-year medium-term lending facility to financial institutions to 2.95 percent, compared with 3.15 percent on the previous operation.
The cut will help to stabilize market expectations of the real estate sector as the real costs of house buyers are expected to drop, he said.
CRIC predicted a retreat of inventory in first- and second-tier cities in the second quarter. But in less developed regions, housing inventory may continue to pile up, it added.
Shocks caused by COVID-19 have yet to fade away completely, Zhang said, noting that the number of cities logging new home price growth in March was smaller than in January and the last quarter of 2019.
The earlier NBS data also showed that China's investment in property development plunged 16.3 percent during the first two months from a year earlier, with investment in residential buildings dropping 16 percent.