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China home price rises quicken, uptrend takes hold

BEIJING (Reuters) - China home prices showed fresh signs of recovery taking hold in November, the fourth month in the last five to show a rise as a two-year long government campaign to curb prices frays.

Average home prices in 70 major cities across China rose 0.3 percent in November from the previous month, after a 0.05 percent rise in October, according to Reuters' calculations from data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday.

Real estate, which directly impacts around 40 other business sectors in China, is a key driver in the world's second-largest economy, which is reviving from a lackluster third quarter.

The signs of a turn in property coincide with other November data published recently which showed industrial output and retail sales rising at their fastest annual pace in eight months, reinforcing views that growth in the fourth quarter will accelerate from the third quarter's 7.4 percent.

"The risk of tightening property curbs is accumulating due to rising home prices along with reviving economy and stabilizing investment," said Zhao Xinkui, a property analyst with Huarong Securities in Beijing.

A Reuters poll showed on Monday that economists expected a 7.0 percent increase in house prices in 2013 and a rise of 5.0 percent in 2014 due to a reviving economy and strong housing demand.

Home prices rose month-on-month in 53 of 70 major cities monitored by the NBS in November, up from 35 in October, confirming a trend of recovering property market, the NBS data showed.

The NBS also said new home prices in Beijing in November rose 0.7 percent from a year earlier, compared with October's year-on-year decline of 0.2 percent. Shanghai's price fall, meanwhile, eased to 0.8 percent in November on a year ago, versus a 1.3 percent annual fall in October.

China's annual policy-setting conference said on Sunday that Beijing would maintain property controls, including restrictions on how many homes individuals can buy.

A house price boom between 2009 and 2011 pushed costs well above the reach of many people in China's rapidly emerging urban middle class, sowing social discontent.

SHARP REBOUND UNWELCOME

Such a modest rise in home price, if turned into a steep rebound next year would fuel market uncertainty over the risk that Beijing will seek to further stifle the property market through controls.

China's fight against property speculation has headed into its third year but the middle-class Chinese are still priced out the of the urban housing market.

A recent uptick in land costs - typically a prelude to home price rises - have changed market sentiment and pushed would-be home buyers back to the market in a bid to beat increases.

China's top state think tank warned last week that China should enforce new property controls next year to curb speculation and prevent an expected modest recovery in house prices from turning into a steep rebound.

The view was echoed by analysts.

"The Chinese government would like to keep the stability of the real estate market. If home prices and sales rebound too quickly next year, the government might unveil fresh tightening policies, including expanding property tax beyond Shanghai and Chongqing," said Liu Yuan, a head of research at property consultancy Centaline.

Rocketing property prices were a major consequence of China's last economic stimulus effort, the 4 trillion yuan ($635 billion) package launched in 2008 at the depths of the global financial crisis.

Compared with a year ago, however, home prices are still falling nationwide. The 0.7 percent drop in November was the ninth such decline but easing from a year-on-year fall of 1.1 percent in October, according to Reuters calculations.

Reuters started its weighted China home price index in January 2011 when the NBS stopped providing nationwide data. The NBS now only publishes price changes for each of the 70 major cities.

(Reporting by Xiaoyi Shao and Nick Edwards; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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