Housing slump deepens from US to China

Reports this week have shown the United States housing slump stretching into a fifth month, China’s home sales slide continuing and price declines persisting in both Australia and New Zealand. — Reuters

NEW YORK: Shaky property markets across much of the world pose another risk to the global economy as higher interest rates erode household finances and threaten to exacerbate falling prices.

Reports this week have shown the United States housing slump stretching into a fifth month, China’s home sales slide continuing and price declines persisting in both Australia and New Zealand.

Sliding home values threaten to undermine consumer confidence and weigh on household spending, which had been a rare bright spot for the global economy last year.

Investments too could take a hit as developers scale back projects in response to falling prices, waning demand and higher borrowing costs.

In the United States, last year’s run-up in mortgage rates cast a chill on the housing market, leading to the worst annual drop in sales of previously owned homes in more than a decade.

That’s pressured prices, particularly in parts of the country such as San Francisco where affordability was already stretched.

That strain is set to continue during the US Federal Reserve’s campaign to tackle inflation. Policymakers were widely expected to raise rates by a quarter-percentage-point at the conclusion of a two-day gathering yesterday, to a range of 4.5% to 4.75%.

In the world’s No. 2 economy, China’s property slowdown is showing few signs of abating, even as authorities ramp up efforts to revive the industry.

New home sales tumbled 32.5% in January from a year earlier, preliminary data from China Real Estate Information Corp showed yesterday.

In recent months, officials have taken steps to ease financing for cash-strapped developers, unwinding a deleveraging campaign that triggered a wave of defaults and dragged on economic growth in the nation.

Local authorities have also stepped up efforts to stimulate homebuying by cutting mortgage rates and easing down-payment requirements,” according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Kristy Hung. “Such steps are unlikely to boost sales until mid-year.”

The prospect of ongoing weakness in China’s property market is a potential headwind to Nomura Holdings Inc’s otherwise upgraded view of this year’s growth prospects, economists led by Ting Lu wrote in a Jan 31 note.

They cited the official narrative that “housing is for living and not for speculating” and declining prices as brakes on speculative demand.

Prices continued to fall in Australia and New Zealand in January, with the slide likely to continue as neither market has yet felt the full brunt of last year’s spike in interest rates.

Many New Zealand households are on fixed-rate mortgages that have yet to roll over to a new, higher rate.

As a consequence, economists are predicting house prices will fall further and will be at least 20% below their late-2021 peak by early 2024.

In the capital city of Wellington, prices have already fallen 18.1% from a year earlier, CoreLogic data showed. In the largest city, Auckland, prices are down 8.2%.

It’s a similar story in Australia, where a spike in loan repayments for those whose mortgages switch to higher variable rates this year is set to weigh on consumption, according to a report by Bloomberg Intelligence.

Repayments on 15% of home loans could jump by more than 80% when their ultra-low fixed rate expires, analysts Mohsen Crofts and Jack Baxter said in the report.

They estimate the hit to household income will be the equivalent of 2.2 percentage points of retail sales.

Housing is even cooling in Singapore, which has been more resilient than many other markets.

Home prices rose just 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2022, the slowest pace in more than two years, figures showed last week. Sales in December dropped to an almost 14-year low.

Still, part of the decline has stemmed from a dearth of new property launches and analysts expect sales to rebound once supply picks up. Wealthy buyers are also buoying the luxury market.

“One bright sign is coming from Hong Kong, which is seeing glimpses of a housing recovery as the border with mainland China reopens,” said Hung.

New home sales may surge more than 50% this year, buoyed by pent-up demand from mainland buyers. — Bloomberg

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US , China , slump , homes , sales , loans , repayments , newlaunches , mortgage


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