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Economy

China's real estate fever burns on, defying remedies

Abundant wealth, restricted overseas investing keep the fire going

Shanghai is among the many Chinese cities regulating home buying to keep prices under control.

BEIJING -- New-home prices rose last month in nearly 90% of major Chinese cities, as government efforts to curb overheating did little to puncture the real estate bubble.

Of the 70 cities tracked, 62 saw prices grow on the month, the National Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday. Prices rose in six more cities in March than in February, and fell in just eight cities -- four fewer than the month before. Cities including Beijing, Hangzhou and Xiamen saw prices resurging after falling in February.

More than 60 of the cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have introduced regulations to tamp down prices since last spring. These include limiting financing to 30-50% of purchase prices, and requiring buyers to have paid income taxes and social insurance.

But with wallets heavy, prices continue to climb. China's cash in circulation and deposits totaled 155 trillion yuan ($22.5 trillion) at the end of last year. The scale of China's economy is about 60% of the U.S., but the country surpasses the U.S. and Japan combined in dollar-converted cash and deposits. Since the end of last year, Beijing has cracked down on overseas investing in an effort to stem capital flight, thus pushing investors toward domestic real estate.

New apartments cost 20 times the average yearly income in Beijing last year, 25 times in Shanghai and 36 times in Shenzhen, shows a survey by the Nomura Institute of Capital Markets Research. By comparison, a Tokyo apartment cost 18 times the average yearly income at the height of the Japanese bubble economy in 1990, says real estate date provider Tokyo Kantei.

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