The gap between Hong Kong home prices and sales is the widest on record as new taxes, rising supply and the prospect of higher mortgage costs deter buyers in the world’s most expensive housing market.
The CHART OF THE DAY tracks Centaline Property Agency Ltd.’s weekly index of home prices against monthly sales of residential units, according to data compiled by Bloomberg dating back to 1996. Prices have fallen 4.2 percent from a record reached in mid-March, compared with a 77 percent contraction in sales from their post-global financial crisis peak in 2010. The lower panel shows the U.S. benchmark interest rate compared with America’s unemployment rate.
The Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the U.S. counterpart has kept borrowing costs in the city at near-record lows, underpinning a 109 percent gain in home prices since the beginning of 2009, even as the government imposed several property curbs to cool demand. The city’s housing market got an additional boost in January 2012 when the U.S. Federal Reserve pledged to keep interest rates low through at least late-2014.
“When people were expecting prices to rise, as they had been over the last couple of years, none of the government’s measures could deter buyers because borrowing costs were low,” said David Ng, an analyst at Macquarie Securities Ltd. in Hong Kong. “Now, the opposite is happening.”
Since 2010, Hong Kong has charged an extra tax of up to 20 percent of the value of homes on buyers who resell them within three years and raised the minimum down-payment on mortgages for homes costing more than HK$7 million ($902,000). In October, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying imposed an extra 15 percent tax on all home purchases by companies and non-residents, and promised to raise land supply.
The Fed has pledged to hold down interest rates as long as unemployment remains above 6.5 percent. Fed Bank of Philadelphia President Charles Plosser said last week he expects unemployment to reach that level by the end of 2014. Macquarie’s Ng, who has an underweight rating on Hong Kong property stocks, said he expects home prices to drop 10 percent this year. Deutsche Bank AG forecast in March a 20 percent decline in the next two years.