【英语中国】中国楼市虽放缓 仍是经济顶梁柱

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2010-6-11 20:54

小艾摘要: China's property sales fell in May for the first time since December 2008, new official data show, but continued growth in construction suggests that government measures to cool the housing market ha ...
China's property sales fell in May for the first time since December 2008, new official data show, but continued growth in construction suggests that government measures to cool the housing market have not yet seriously cut into the nation's economic expansion.

Chinese exports are also performing better than expected, providing continued support to growth even amid the troubles in Europe. Merchandise exports surged 48.5% from a year earlier in May, leading to a rebound in the trade surplus to $19.53 billion for the month, the largest since November. 'Stronger exports are encouraging,' said Royal Bank of Scotland economist Ben Simpfendorfer.

But the real driver of China's growth right now is the property-led investment boom. Figures published Thursday by the National Bureau of Statistics provided the first official indication of how buyers and sellers of property have responded to the new policies the government rolled out in mid-April to address public discontent with high housing prices. Since then, worries about the property sector have pushed down Chinese stock prices, as well as prices of raw materials like copper and steel that are heavily used in construction.

While there was no sign of a major turnaround in prices in May, nationwide sales of property were down 3.4% from a year earlier in terms of floor area, the statistics bureau's figures showed. May's sales volume fell 15.8% from April, the bureau said, and declined 25% in value terms - actually a more modest decline than some earlier estimates by private real-estate research firms.

The government's main objective has been to deter speculative purchase of housing and rein in price rises, and to avoid slamming the brakes on a construction boom that has helped keep the nation's economy humming. Early evidence suggests property developers have not scaled back their building plans: New construction starts in May were double last year's levels, and are up 72.4% so far this year, while developers' purchases of land were also up 44.1% in May.

The Shanghai stock market ended down 0.8% Thursday after the data were released, a sign the figures may not be enough to reassure those worried about the future effects of the government's effort to push down housing prices. Real-estate developer Shanghai Shi Mao Co. on Thursday scrapped a plan to sell new shares, citing the changes in government policy toward the property market.

'I think the market is still too nervous to give a positive assessment of the latest developments,' said Wang Qing, China economist for Morgan Stanley.

He for one is confident that a property slowdown is unlikely to result in a hard landing for the overall economy, as high levels of bank lending are still providing plenty of support for growth. But the Chinese economy has undeniably been cooling in recent months as the government gradually withdraws its stimulus measures.

That's showing up in China's demand for the key commodities and raw materials that have fueled the investment boom. In May, China's imports of copper were down 6.1% from a year earlier, and those of iron ore, the main raw material for making steel, were down 2.9% from a year earlier, figures issued Thursday show. The volume of commodity imports terms is well above levels in 2008, before China launched its massive stimulus program and construction began to rebound, but has come off its peaks.

One risk: Officials are still discussing additional real-estate policies, such as new taxes on high-end properties, that could weigh on sentiment if adopted. And with many property buyers now waiting for sellers to cut prices before buying, there has been little change in the housing-price trend that prompted the government's intervention in April.

The nationwide index of real-estate sales prices, which covers 70 cities, continued to rise 0.2% in May compared to April, and is up 12.4% from a year earlier. Average prices in a few major cities, including Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, did decline slightly in May from the previous month, but in all cases the drop was less than 1%.

'While the momentum of property price rises has probably slowed following the tightening measures introduced in mid-April, there is no visible decline in prices yet,' Barclays Capital economist Wensheng Peng said in a report. Prices are likely to decline more in coming months as many new housing projects hit the market, he said.

中国国家统计局新出炉的官方数据显示,5月份中国房屋成交量自2008年12月以来出现首次下滑,不过建筑业的持续增长表明政府为楼市降温的举措尚未严重削弱中国的经济增长。

Reuters深圳一个楼盘的售楼人员在向一对看盘的夫妇介绍楼盘情况中国出口业的表现也好于预期,在欧洲陷入困境之际仍为增长提供着持续的支撑。5月份中国商品出口同比增长48.5%,贸易顺差反弹至195.3亿美元,创下去年11月以来的最大贸易顺差。苏格兰皇家银行(Royal Bank of Scotland)经济学家贝哲民(Ben Simpfendorfer)说,出口的增强是鼓舞人心的。

不过,目前推动中国增长的真正动力是由房地产主导的投资热。国家统计局周四公布的数据首次从官方层面显示了房地产买卖双方对政府4月中旬推出的、应对公众对高房价不满的新政的反应如何。此后,对房地产行业的担忧打压了中国股市,以及在建筑中大量使用的铜和钢铁等原材料的价格。

国家统计局的数据显示,尽管没有迹象表明5月份房价出现了大幅下滑,全国房屋成交量(按建筑面积计算)同比却下滑了3.4%。国家统计局说,5月份房屋成交量环比下滑15.8%,成交额环比下滑25%──降幅实际上小于私营房地产研究公司早些时候做出的估计。

政府的主要目标是要遏制投机性购房、限制房价上涨、避免给保持中国经济发展的建筑热潮急刹车。早期证据显示,房地产开发商没有缩减建设计划:5月份新开工项目较去年同期增长了一倍,今年以来已经增长了72.4%,而5月份开发商土地购置也增加了44.1%。

国家统计局的数据出炉后,上海证交所周四收盘跌0.8%,显示出数据或许不足以让那些对政府打压房价措施的未来效果感到担心的人放下心来。房地产开发公司上海世茂股份有限公司周四取消了发行新股的计划,原因是政府的房地产市场政策发生了变化。

摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley) 中国经济学家王庆说,我认为市场仍过于紧张,没能正面评估最近的发展。

房地产市场发展放缓不太可能导致整体经济硬着陆,他个人对此有信心,因为目前银行贷款水平较高,仍然为经济增长提供了足量的支持。但无法否认的是,随着政府逐步收回刺激措施,中国经济近几个月一直在降温。

这一趋势在中国对主要大宗商品及原材料需求的变化中有所体现。这些商品一直为投资热的动力源泉。周四公布的数据显示,今年5月,中国的铜进口量同比下降6.1%,炼钢的主要原材料──铁矿石的进口量同比下降2.9%。大宗商品的进口量已不再处于峰值水平,但仍大大高于2008年,即中国实施大规模刺激计划且建设亦开始反弹之前的水平。

一个风险不容忽视:官员们仍在讨论对高端房地产征收新的税项等房地产新政。如果新政得以实施,可能会对市场信心产生影响。虽然众多买房人正等着房价下跌之后再出手,但促使政府于4月出手干预楼市的房价走势却少有变化。

5月,覆盖中国70个城市的全国房地产销售价格指数环比继续上涨0.2%,同比上涨12.4%。北京、杭州、南京、广州和深圳等少数主要城市的均价环比略微下降,但降幅均不足1%。

巴克莱资本(Barclays Capital)经济学家彭文生在报告中说,自4月中旬实施紧缩措施之后,尽管房价上涨势头可能放缓,但房价尚未明显下降。随着许多新住宅项目投放市场,未来几个月,房价可能跌幅更大。

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