February 28, 2020 / 3:20 AM / a month ago

Hong Kong home prices fall for second straight month in January

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong private home prices fell for the second straight month in January on low transaction volumes, easing 0.2% amid the emergence of the novel coronavirus in a property market already hit hard by anti-government protests in the last year.

Prices fell a revised 1.6% in December. January prices were 4.7% lower than the peak in May 2019.

Fears over the virus outbreak have clouded one of the world’s most expensive property markets, but property agents said business recovered slightly this month after the lunar new year holiday, as sellers cut prices and buyers sought bargains.

While the volume is expected to remain low in the short term, agents do not expect a collapse in prices, given the strong pent-up demand and low interest rates.

Realtor Ricacorp lowered its forecast for the full year, saying prices would climb 3-5%, compared with its original forecast of a 10% rise.

The property sector has been relatively resilient compared with tourism and retail, which have been hit badly by the protests and the epidemic.

But some agents project no growth or a small decline, saying that could worsen when the recession-hit city’s unemployment rate rises.

At least two Hong Kong banks have introduced relief measures for home mortgage borrowers hurt by the coronavirus outbreak, in a move analysts say could help lower foreclosures in an economy already in recession.

Reporting by Clare Jim; Editing by Gerry Doyle

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