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China’s July new home prices fall for the first time this year

China's new home prices fall for first time this year © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A real estate agent staff member stands on a bridge near new apartment blocks in Beijing’s Wangjing area, China, September 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) -China’s new home prices fell for the first time this year in July, official data showed on Wednesday, as piecemeal policy support failed to shore up the embattled property sector, heaping pressure on authorities to introduce bolder stimulus.

The 0.2% fall month-on-month came after June’s flat reading, according to Reuters calculations based on National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data. Prices were down 0.1% from a year earlier, after a flat result in June.

The decline in home prices comes amid a worsening debt crisis at major developers, sliding property investment and home sales. Taken together with the broader softening of economic growth and weak consumer confidence, the latest data underlines the continued pressure faced by policymakers to ramp up their support measures.

China’s property sector, which accounts for a quarter of its economic activity, continues to struggle despite an extension of financial support for developers and incentives for first-time home buyers and upgraders.

Among 70 cities, 49 saw a fall in new home prices month-on-month in July from 38 cities the previous month.

The Politburo, a top decision-making body of the ruling Communist Party, in July vowed to adjust property policies in response to significant market changes.

The central bank on Tuesday unexpectedly cut key policy rates for the second time in three months to support the faltering economic recovery.

As part of efforts to restore confidence, the central bank earlier this month vowed to guide banks to adjust interest rates on existing mortgages.

Some cities have already relaxed a handful of property curbs in efforts to shore up sentiment. More such announcements are expected in the coming weeks, but the investor response has so far been tepid, highlighting the depth of China’s economic underperformace this year.

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