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Oct. 19, 2017, 12:44 a.m. EDT

China September housing sales contracts

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By Dominique Fong

BEIJING -- China's housing sales in September contracted for the first time since a property boom began two years ago.

Housing sales by value in September decreased 2.4% from a year earlier, according to calculations made by The Wall Street Journal based on National Bureau of Statistics data released Thursday. That compared with a 3.8% gain in August. The last year-over-year decline was in March 2015.

For the first nine months of the year, housing sales rose 11.4% from a year earlier, compared with a 14.2% gain from January through August.

The chill in China's property market comes after banks in several big cities raised mortgage rates for first-time buyers and on the back of another round of property controls in September to restrict home-buying in cities such as Chongqing, Nanchang and Guiyang.

Various cities and China's central bank in September also increased scrutiny of large consumer loans that were being used as down payments on homes, in an effort to prevent speculative funds from flowing into the property market.

Property investment, including in commercial and residential real estate, grew 8.1% in the first nine months of the year to 8 trillion yuan ($1.27 trillion), compared with a 7.9% increase in the first eight months of the year.

Construction starts rose 6.8% from a year earlier at 1.3 billion square meters. That compared with 7.6% growth in the year through August.

Write to Dominique Fong at dominique.fong@wsj.com

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