HONG KONG: Shares of Chinese property companies outperformed the broader market on Monday after Premier Li Keqiang confirmed expectations that more easing in the sector is coming, though only city-specific and not a full-scale relaxation, analysts said.
The Hang Seng Mainland Properties Index reversed morning losses to gain 1.5% in the afternoon, versus a 3.2% drop in the Hang Seng Index.
Country Garden, the nation's largest developer by sales, jumped 5.6%, while state-owned China Overseas Land & Investment gained 3.7%.
The government will support the commercial housing market to better meet homebuyers' legitimate needs, and implement city-specific policies to promote healthy development of the property sector, Li told the annual meeting of parliament on Saturday.
He stressed China will continue its policy of "houses are for living in, not for speculation" and "stabilization of land prices, home prices and general market expectation on housing".
Policymakers will explore a new development model and accelerate the development of the rental market, he added.
Analysts said that while the comment was similar to other official comments in December, the tone was slightly more positive.
"Overall, we believe the government's property policies stated during the NPC meeting appear to have turned slightly friendly," Nomura said in a research note.
The investment bank expected more local governments will introduce property policy fine-tuning measures in the coming month, with potential policy adjustments including reduction of down-payment ratios and marginal removal of home-purchase restrictions.
Citi, who also expected some policy easing in weak cities, said the top-level tone still focuses on policy continuity, and any fine-tuning will take around six months to restore buyers' confidence.
China's home sales volume dropped around 40% in the first two months this year from a year ago, though home prices gained strength in recent weeks after a deep downturn last year as authorities began easing regulations, including allowing smaller down payments, lowering mortgage rates and cutting the deed tax.