BEIJING (Reuters) - China's housing regulator has urged four more cities to prevent their residential property markets from overheating in the latest sign that authorities are not about to relax their grip on the real estate business in order to spur the economy.
The cities of Suzhou, Foshan, Dalian and Nanning have been told by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development to stabilize land and housing prices as well as market expectations, the official Xinhua news agency reported late on Saturday.
Six other cities were warned by the ministry last month to monitor the growth of home prices in their markets, after some cities, including, Foshan quietly started to relax some curbs since December to spur demand.
China's home property market is a key plank of the economy, influencing tens of related sectors such as construction and financial services.
The sector has held up well despite a slowdown in growth in the world's second-biggest economy, with policymakers walking a fine line between preserving stability and hurting market sentiment.
Renewed tensions between China and the United States over trade have also added pressure on Chinese policymakers to keep the domestic economy on a stable footing, while continuing to fend off risks such as housing bubbles.
Average new home prices in China's 70 major cities rose 0.6% in April, unchanged from the pace of growth in March, according to a monthly official survey.
Most of the 70 cities surveyed by the National Bureau of Statistics still reported monthly price gains for new homes. The number increased to 67 in April from 65 in March, signaling a slight strengthening in the market.
The housing ministry reiterated that "houses are for living in, not for speculation", according to the Xinhua news agency on Saturday.
Even before the ministry's latest warning, the prosperous city of Suzhou, just northwest of Shanghai, had already rolled out new property curbs.
On May 11, Suzhou said it would restrict buyers of new homes in some districts from selling their property within three years.
(Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)