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Chinese real estate stocks surged this month. But analyst warns of high expectations vs. ‘weak reality’

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China’s housing prices fell in October due primarily to falling prices in less developed, so-called Tier-3 cities, according to Goldman Sachs analysis of official data.
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BEIJING — China’s real estate sector isn’t yet poised for a quick recovery, despite a rally this month in stocks of major property developers.

That’s because recent support by Beijing don’t directly resolve the main problem of falling home sales and prices, analysts say.

Last week, property developer stocks surged after news the central bank and banking regulator issued measures that encouraged banks to help the real estate industry. It comes alongside other support measures earlier this month.

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Shares of Country Garden, the biggest Chinese developer by sales, have more than doubled in November, and those of Longfor have surged by about 90%. The stocks have already given back some of this month’s gains.

Meanwhile, iron ore futures surged by about 16% this month — Morgan Stanley analysts say about 40% of China’s steel consumption is used in property construction.

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The situation is one of “strong expectations, but weak reality,” and market prices have deviated from the fundamentals, Sheng Mingxing, ferrous metals analyst at Nanhua Research Institute, said in Chinese translated by CNBC.

Sheng said it’s important to watch whether apartments can be completed and delivered during the peak construction period of March and April.

This really is a temporary relief in terms of the developers having to meet less debt repayment needs in the near future…
Samuel Hui
Fitch Ratings

The new measures, widely reported in China but not officially released, stipulate loan extensions, call for treating developers the same whether they are state-owned or not and support bond issuance. Neither regulator responded to CNBC’s request for comment.

“This really is a temporary relief in terms of the developers having to meet less debt repayment needs in the near future — a temporary liquidity relief rather than a fundamental turnaround,” Hong Kong-based analyst Samuel Hui, director, Asia-Pacific corporates, Fitch Ratings, said Wednesday.

“The key is that we still need the fundamental underlying home sales market to improve,” he said, noting homebuyer confidence relies on whether developers can finish building and delivering apartments.

Earlier this year, many homebuyers refused to continue paying mortgages on apartments when construction was delayed. Homes in China are typically sold ahead of completion, generating a major source of cash flow for developers.

A drawn-out recovery

Analysts differ on when China’s property market can recover.

Fitch said a timeline “remains highly uncertain,” while S&P Global Ratings’ Senior Director Lawrence Lu expects a recovery could occur in the second half of next year.

“If this policy is implemented promptly, this will stop the downward spiral to the developers, this will help to restore the investors’ confidence [in] the developers,” he said.

Residential housing sales for the first 10 months of the year dropped by 28.2% from a year ago, the National Bureau of Statistics said last week. S&P Global Ratings said in July it expects a 30% plunge in sales for 2022, worse than in 2008 when sales fell by about 20%.

A slowdown in economic growth, uncertainty about ongoing Covid controls and worries about future income have dampened appetite for buying homes.

Adding to those worries are falling prices.

Housing prices across 70 cities fell by 1.4% in October from a year ago, according to Goldman Sachs analysis of data released Wednesday.

“Despite more local housing easing measures in recent months,” the analysts said, “we believe the property markets in lower-tier cities still face strong headwinds from weaker growth fundamentals than large cities, including net population outflows and potential oversupply problems.”

The report said housing prices in the largest, tier-1 cities rose by 3.1% in October from September, while Tier-3 cities saw a 3.9% drop during that time.

About two years ago, Beijing began to crack down on developers’ high reliance on debt for growth. The country’s most indebted developer, Evergrande, defaulted late last year in a high-profile debt crisis that rattled investor confidence.

Worries about other real estate companies’ ability to repay their debt have since spread to once-healthy developers.

Trading in shares of Evergrande, Kaisa and Shimao is still suspended.

While Covid controls have dragged down China’s growth this year, the real estate market’s struggles have also contributed significantly.

The property sector, including related industries, accounts for about a quarter of China’s GDP, according to analyst estimates.

“I think the real estate sector will become lesser of a drag to the economy in 2023,” Tommy Wu, senior China economist at Commerzbank AG, said Wednesday.

“It is too early to tell whether the measures rolled out so far will be enough to rescue the real estate sector,” he said. “But it feels more assuring now because it seems more likely that more forceful measures will be rolled out if the real estate downturn still doesn’t turn around meaningful in the coming months.”

A longer-term transformation

Ultimately, China’s real estate industry is undergoing a state-directed transformation — to a smaller part of the economy and a business model far less reliant on selling apartments before they’re completed.

The property market has shrunk by roughly one-third compared to last year, and will likely remain the same size next year, S&P’s Lu said.

State-owned developers have fared better during the downturn, he pointed out.

In the first three quarters of the year, Lu said sales by state-owned developers fell by 25%, compared to the 58% sales decline for developers not owned by the state.

And despite recent policy moves, Beijing’s stance remains firm in dissuading home purchases at scale.

Whether it’s messaging from the National Bureau of Statistics or the People’s Bank of China, official announcements this month reiterated that houses are for living in, not speculation — the mantra that marked the early beginnings of the real estate market slump.

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Former B.C. Realtor has licence cancelled, $130K in penalties for role in mortgage fraud

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The provincial regulator responsible for policing B.C.’s real estate industry has ordered a former Realtor to pay $130,000 and cancelled her licence after determining that she committed a variety of professional misconduct.

Rashin Rohani surrendered her licence in December 2023, but the BC Financial Services Authority’s chief hearing officer Andrew Pendray determined that it should nevertheless be cancelled as a signal to other licensees that “repetitive participation in deceptive schemes” will result in “significant” punishment.

He also ordered her to pay a $40,000 administrative penalty and $90,000 in enforcement expenses. Pendray explained his rationale for the penalties in a sanctions decision issued on May 17. The decision was published on the BCFSA website Wednesday.

Rohani’s misconduct occurred over a period of several years, and came in two distinct flavours, according to the decision.

Pendray found she had submitted mortgage applications for five different properties that she either owned or was purchasing, providing falsified income information on each one.

Each of these applications was submitted using a person referred to in the decision as “Individual 1” as a mortgage broker. Individual 1 was not a registered mortgage broker and – by the later applications – Rohani either knew or ought to have known this was the case, according to the decision.

All of that constituted “conduct unbecoming” under B.C.’s Real Estate Services Act, Pendray concluded.

Separately, Rohani also referred six clients to Individual 1 when she knew or ought to have known he wasn’t a registered mortgage broker, and she received or anticipated receiving a referral fee from Individual 1 for doing so, according to the decision. Rohani did not disclose this financial interest in the referrals to her clients.

Pendray found all of that to constitute professional misconduct under the act.

‘Deceptive’ scheme

The penalties the chief hearing officer chose to impose for this behaviour were less severe than those sought by the BCFSA in the case, but more significant than those Rohani argued she should face.

Rohani submitted that the appropriate penalty for her conduct would be a six-month licence suspension or a $15,000 discipline penalty, plus $20,000 in enforcement expenses.

For its part, the BCFSA asked Pendray to cancel Rohani’s licence and impose a $100,000 discipline penalty plus more than $116,000 in enforcement expenses.

Pendray’s ultimate decision to cancel the licence and impose penalties and expenses totalling $130,000 reflected his assessment of the severity of Rohani’s misconduct.

Unlike other cases referenced by the parties in their submissions, Rohani’s misconduct was not limited to a single transaction involving falsified documents or a series of such transactions during a brief period of time, according to the decision.

“Rather, in this case Ms. Rohani repetitively, over the course of a number of years, elected to personally participate in a deceptive mortgage application scheme for her own benefit, and subsequently, arranged for her clients to participate in the same deceptive mortgage application scheme,” the decision reads.

Pendray further noted that, although Rohani had been licensed for “a significant period of time,” she had only completed a small handful of transactions, according to records from her brokerage.

There were just six transactions on which her brokerage recorded earnings for her between December 2015 and February 2020, according to the decision. Of those six, four were transactions that were found to have involved misconduct or conduct unbecoming.

“In sum, Ms. Rohani’s minimal participation in the real estate industry as a licensee has, for the majority of that minimal participation, involved her engaging in conduct unbecoming involving deceptive practices and professional misconduct,” the decision reads.

According to the decision, Rohani must pay the $40,000 discipline penalty within 90 days of the date it was issued.

 

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Should you wait to buy or sell your home?

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The Bank of Canada is expected to announce its key interest rate decision in less than two weeks. Last month, the bank lowered its key interest rate to 4.7 per cent, marking its first rate cut since March 2020.

CTV Morning Live asked Jason Pilon, broker of Record Pilon Group, whether now is the right time to buy or sell your home.

When it comes to the next interest rate announcement, Pilon says the bank might either lower it further, or just keep it as is.

“The best case scenario we’re seeing is obviously a quarter point. I think more just because of the job numbers that just came out, I think more people are just leading on the fact that they probably just gonna do it in September,” he said. “Either way, what we saw in June, didn’t make a big difference.”

Here are the pros of buying/ selling now:

Pilon suggests locking in the rate right now, if you don’t want to take a risk with interest rates going up in the future.

He says the environment is more predictable right now, noting that the home values are transparent, which is one of the benefits for home sellers.

“Do you want to risk looking at what that looks like down the road? Or do you want to have the comfort in knowing what your house is worth right now?” Pilon said.

And when it comes to buyers, he notes, the competition is not so fierce right now, noting that there are options to choose from.

“You’re in the driver seat right now,” he said while noting the benefits for buyers.

Here are the cons of buying/ selling now:

He says one of the cons would be locking in the rate right now, then seeing a rate cut in the future.

The competition could potentially become fierce, if the bank decides to cut the rate further more, he explained.

He notes that if that happens, the housing crisis will become even worse, as Canada is still dealing with low housing inventory.

An increase in competition would increase the prices of houses, he adds.

Selling or buying too quickly isn’t the best practice, he notes, suggesting that you should take your time and put some thought into it.

Despite all the pros and cons, Pilon says, real estate remains a good investment.

According to the latest Royal LePage House Price Survey for the second quarter of this year, the average home price in Canada is $824,300. That’s up 1.9 per cent from the same time last year, and up 1.5 per cent from the first quarter of 2024.

In the Ottawa Housing Market Report for June 2024, the average price of a home was up 2.4 per cent from this time last year to $686,535, but down 0.6 per cent from May 2024.

Experts believe many potential buyers are still hesitant of jumping into the housing market and waiting for another interest rate cut of 50 to 100 basis points.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the rush that we see in the past, because people are used to more of a conservative approach right now,” said Curtis Fillier, president of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. “I think there’s still a bit of a hold back, but I definitely do think with another rate cut, we’ll probably see a very positive fall market.”

With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Kimberly Fowler

 

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Real estate stocks soar to best day of year on rate cut bets

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(Bloomberg) — The stock market’s worst group notched its best day of the year as a cooler-than-expected inflation report stoked bets that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates in September.

Shares of real estate companies jumped 2.7% Thursday for their biggest gain of 2024, climbing to their highest level since March as investors snapped up homebuilder, digital and commercial real estate stocks alike. Real estate also was the best-performing group in the S&P 500 Index Thursday, with volume that was around 30% higher than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Arguably the most significant news to come from the latest consumer price index reading was a pullback in housing-related inflation. Shelter costs rose just 0.2% for the slowest monthly increase in three years. Homebuilders, which have risen 7.1% this year, were up 7.3% for the session, the most since 2022. Shares of D.R. Horton Inc., which is scheduled to report earnings next Thursday, gained 7.3%.

“Housing has really been the last shoe to drop in terms of winning the battle against high inflation,” Preston Caldwell, chief U.S. economist at Morningstar wrote in a note to clients Thursday. “Leading-edge data has strongly indicated for some time now that a fall in housing inflation was in the works.”

A rally in real estate stocks is bad news for short sellers who have been piling into the group, which is the worst performer in the S&P 500 this year. To start the week, short interest as a percentage of float hovered near 49% in the SPDR Homebuilders ETF, the highest level since February for the exchange-traded fund, according to data from S3 Partners.

Property owners are rallying as well. Real estate investment trusts, which were brutally penalized during the two-year run up in borrowing costs, advanced by as much as 3%. And the outlook for the group appears to have turned a corner, according Rich Hill, senior vice president and head of real estate strategy and research at Cohen & Steers Capital Management.

“We think this is a compelling backdrop for listed REITs especially as fundamental growth remains on solid footing,” he said, referencing the latest inflation data and rate outlook. “The rally that started in October of 2023 pushing returns more than 20% above their trough looks set to continue if inflation cools and interest rates continue to decline.”

Shares of industrial REIT Prologis Inc., which reports second-quarter results on Wednesday, rose 3.3% to hit their highest level since April. U.S. Treasury yields tumbled, with the 10-year bond falling to 4.2% and the policy-sensitive two-year note slipping to 4.5%.

(Updates indexes and stock prices for market close.)

 

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