Hong Kong home prices drop 2.3% in August to lowest in 3-1/2 years

HONG KONG, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Hong Kong private home prices fell 2.256% in August from a month earlier to the lowest since February 2019, official data showed on Wednesday, as market sentiment was hurt by rising interest rates.

The drop in home prices in one of the world's most unaffordable housing markets last month followed a revised 1.44% decline in July.

Home prices in the financial hub have fallen 6.5% in the first eight months of this year. The property price index was at 368.2 in August, slipping from an all-time peak of 398.1 in September last year.

Rising mortgage costs and a bleak economic outlook have deepened pessimism among homeowners, while home prices for the full-year are expected to drop around 10%, the first fall since 2008.

Hong Kong banks raised their best lending rate by 12.5 basis points last week, the first rate hike in four years, following the U.S. Federal Reserve's third straight rate increase of 75 basis points.

JP Morgan head of Asia property research, Cusson Leung, said the smaller-than-expected rate hike was a positive but the property market would likely continue to soften in 2023 due to a weak global economy.

However, he expected the decline to be moderate.

"In order for sentiment to turn around, we'd need the help of a better economy and a better stock market," Leung said, adding that a reopening of the border with mainland China would also boost demand.

Hong Kong financial chief Paul Chan said last week he did not see a sharp risk to the city's real estate market nor a need to adjust property control measures.

Hong Kong's de facto central bank last week relaxed a mortgage stress test requirement following the best lending rate hike, helping property buyers to borrow more from banks.

Reporting by Clare Jim and Donny Kwok; editing by Richard Pullin

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