By Yawen Chen and Kevin Yao
BEIJING (Reuters) - Growth in China's property investment cooled in November as an official crackdown on riskier lending and stiffer regulation of the real estate market took effect.
Property investment growth eased for a second straight month to 4.6 percent in November from a year earlier, the slowest pace since July 2016, Reuters calculated from National Bureau of Statistics data. Investment growth was 5.6 percent in October.
But new construction starts measured by floor area, a telling indicator of developers' confidence, were up a sharp 18.8 percent in November from a year earlier, after falling 4.3 percent in October, Reuters calculations showed.
Developers' land purchases measured by area rose 16.3 percent in the first 11 months of the year, compared to 12.9 percent in January-October.
"Overall the investment level is pretty steady, which could be explained by property developers' enthusiasm in land bids despite the property purchase curbs," said Yan Yuejin, an analyst with Shanghai-based E-house China R&D Institute.
Yan suggested the land bids could be due to a surge in local government land supply towards the year-end.
Property sales by floor area reached a five-month high in November, rising 5.3 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 6.0 percent decline in October, showing considerable resilience even as more tightening measures are expected for lower-tier cities.
But many analysts attribute November's rebound to a low base effect as sales plummeted last year after more than a dozen major Chinese cities introduced measures to rein in sky-rocketing prices last October, and they are sceptical such a pick-up could be sustained.
"As the tightening measures continue to intensify and mortgage rates reach a record high, sales in smaller tier-3 and tier-4 cities have dropped significantly," analysts at Haitong securities wrote in a note.
"A sales rebound is hardly sustainable."
Property experts generally expect growth in China's property sales, investment, and credit supply to the sector to weaken further next year as government cooling measures are likely to continue, a recent Reuters housing poll showed.
Property investment in the first 11 months of the year rose 7.5 percent from a year earlier, compared with 7.8 percent in Jan-Oct. The figure mainly focuses on residential real estate but also includes commercial and office space.
Household loans, mostly mortgages, rose to 620.5 billion yuan in November from 450.1 billion yuan in October, according to Reuters calculations based on the central bank's data out on Monday.
China's economy has surprised global financial markets and investors with robust growth of 6.9 percent through the first nine months of this year, driven by a renaissance in long-ailing "smokestack" industries such as steel thanks to the resilient property market and government infrastructure spending.
(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Kevin Yao; Additional Reporting by Jenny Su and Cheng Fang; Editing by Eric Meijer)