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Wen calls for measures to stop property speculation

SHANGHAI--Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has called for efforts to limit property speculation, state media reported, as the country's housing market shows signs of a rebound.

China has implemented several measures aimed at curbing runaway property prices for more than a year, including bans on buying second homes, hiking minimum down-payments and introducing property taxes in certain cities.

But lower mortgage rates following two interest rate cuts in less than a month and local governments testing the limits of the policy have caused property sales to pick up in some cities, analysts say.

“We must continue to firmly control speculative investment,” Wen said Saturday while visiting the eastern province of Jiangsu, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

“We must make controlling property speculation a long-term policy ... prices cannot be allowed to rebound,” he said.

The government has been seeking to clamp down on speculative demand while at the same time encouraging banks to lend to first-time home buyers.

Wen said prices for new homes in “some” cities rose in June from May, but gave no details.

In May, the number of cities that recorded rises in home prices doubled to six, suggesting prices have started to rebound despite government controls.

Out of 70 cities tracked by the government, 43 registered month-on-month falls in home prices in May, while 21 were flat, official figures showed.

The government is due to announce housing prices in 70 major cities for June on July 18.

China cut lending and deposit rates effective on Friday, following a similar move early last month, as the government seeks to avert a hard landing for the world's second-largest economy.

Xinhua said in a commentary published Friday that the latest interest rate cut had fueled expectations of a rebound in the property market.

The cut threatened to “lay waste to government efforts to return house prices to reasonable levels for ordinary Chinese,” it said.

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