China's property sector continued to cool in November, but the declines have been narrowing on the support of government policy adjustments, official data showed on Thursday.
New home prices in 67 out of 70 major cities reported month-on-month drops last month, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said, whereas prices in the cities of Hefei, Nanjing and Shenzhen remained flat.
New home prices in Beijing and Shanghai dropped by 0.3 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively, narrowing from 1.3-percent and 0.7-percent falls a month earlier.
For existing homes, only 58 cities saw prices drop last month, compared with 64 in October. Six cities, mostly first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shenzhen, saw second-hand home prices rise.
NBS senior statistician Liu Jianwei attributed the narrowing decreases to government policy changes intended to avoid a sharp slowdown in the sector out of fear of jeopardizing the broader economy.
Those moves include fewer restrictions on home purchases and eased mortgage rules. In addition, the central bank last month decided to lower the one-year benchmark lending rate and deposit rate to cut financing costs.
All combined, the policies did have a positive impact on the sluggish market. In November, home sales reached a monthly high for this year, registering 809.6 billion yuan (132.3 billion U.S. dollars), 93.8 billion yuan more than October.
But despite their immediate boost to the market, the moves are insufficient to halt and reverse China's structural property downturn, said Wang Tao, chief China economist with UBS. She said the property sector remains the top risk to growth in 2015.
Earlier data showed China's real estate investment growth softened to 11.9 percent year on year in the January-November period from a 19.8-percent increase in 2013.
Dragged down by the housing slowdown, softening domestic demand and unsteady exports, China's growth slid to a low not seen since the 2008/2009 global financial crisis in the third quarter.
In the first three quarters, China's gross domestic output expanded by 7.4 percent.
And with the property market still experiencing headwinds, the UBS expects GDP growth to cool to 7 percent in the fourth quarter and 6.8 percent in 2015.
In the tone-setting Central Economic Work Conference last week, Chinese leaders said they could deliver the social and economic goals "relatively well" in 2014, while stressing the economy still faces many challenges and "relatively big" downward pressures such as increasing difficulties for businesses and the emergence of economic risks.
The statement released after the meeting did not give a specific growth target for 2015, which is usually made public in March, but said the government will be "reasonable" when setting goals and maintaining the flexibility of its macro-control policies.