Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Chinese home price growth slows, debt concerns rise in US and Europe

China appears to be having some success in cooling its housing market. From Bloomberg on Monday:

China’s new home price growth slowed in Beijing and Shanghai in March as the government intensified property curbs, sending the property stock index to one-month high.

New home prices in the capital of Beijing rose 4.9 percent in March from a year earlier, easing from a 6.8 percent gain in February, the statistics bureau said on its website today. In Shanghai, the country’s financial hub, prices climbed 1.7 percent last month, down from 2.3 percent growth in February. Of the 70 cities monitored by the government, 67 cities posted gains, down from 68 in the first two months, the data showed.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that house prices in England and Wales managed to rise again in April.

Asking prices for houses in England and Wales nudged 0.1 percent higher in April compared with a year ago, although agents saw the biggest monthly rise in unsold properties in nearly four years, a survey said on Monday.

Property website Rightmove said April's small rise compared with a 0.9 percent annual gain in March and took the average asking price to 235,822 pounds from 231,790 pounds.

The US housing market, though, shows few signs of recovery. From Bloomberg:

Confidence among U.S. homebuilders fell in April, led by a decline in the outlook for sales, a sign the residential construction market may languish near record-low levels.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo sentiment index declined to 16 this month from 17 in March, data from the Washington-based group showed today. A measure of sales expectations for the next six months dropped to the lowest level since October, and a gauge of current purchases also fell. Readings below 50 mean more respondents said conditions were poor.

What captured the headlines in the US on Monday though was a downgrade from S&P on the outlook for the rating for US government debt. Again from Bloomberg:

Standard & Poor’s put the U.S. government on notice that it risks losing its AAA credit rating unless policy makers agree on a plan by 2013 to reduce budget deficits and the national debt.

“If an agreement is not reached and meaningful implementation does not begin by then, this would in our view render the U.S. fiscal profile meaningfully weaker than that of peer ‘AAA’ sovereigns,” New York-based S&P said today in a report that maintained its top rating on U.S. long-term debt while lowering the outlook to “negative” for the first time.

But the more immediate debt problems remain in Europe, as Reuters reminds us.

Fresh fears that Greece will have to restructure its mountain of debt, possibly as early as this summer, sent the euro and some euro zone bond prices tumbling on Monday as the bloc's debt crisis escalated.

German government sources told Reuters in Berlin that they did not believe Greece, which sealed a 110 billion euro (96.3 billion pound) bailout from the EU and IMF a year ago, would make it through the summer without a restructuring.

Market confidence was also hit by a new threat to Portugal's pending bailout from the rise of an anti-euro party in Finnish elections.

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