Why The Record Drop In Chinese House Prices Suggests Beijing Is Already In A Recession

Another month, and another confirmation that China's hard landing is if not here, then likely mere months away.

Overnight, the NBS reported that in March, Chinese house prices dropped in 69 of 70 cities compared to a year ago. According to Goldman's seasonal adjustments, in March home prices dropped another 0.5% from February, the same as the prior month's decline, suggesting that the February 28 rate cut hasn't done much to boost housing spirits.

However, it is the annual data that truly stands out, because with a drop of 6.1% this was the biggest drop in Chinese house prices in history.

 

To be sure, the PBOC is now scrambling to halt what, unless it is stopped, will become a full-blown hard landing in months, if it isn't already. As a result, as shown in the chart below it has recently engaged in several easing steps, with many more to come according to the sell-side consensus. So far these have failed to stimulate the overall economy, which continues to be pressured by a deflation-importing world, but have certainly lead to a massive surge in the Chinese stock market.

 

Incidentally, the ongoing collapse in Chinese home prices is precisely why the PBOC and the Politburo have both done everything in their power to substitute the burst housing bubble with another: that of stocks, by pushing everyone (even the illiterates) to invest as much as possible in the stock market, leading to the biggest and fastest liquidity and margin debt-driven bubble in history.

...one which has left BNP "speechless."

Unfortunately for China, as we have shown before, all Chinese attempts to do what every self-respecting Keynesian would do, i.e., replace one bubble with another, are doomed to fail for the simple reason that unlike in the US, where the bulk of assets are in financial form, in China 75% of all household wealth is in real estate.

 

And this is where things get scarier, because if one compares the history of the Chinese and US housing bubbles, one observes that it was when US housing had dropped by about 6% following their all time highs in November 2005, that the US entered a recession.

This is precisely where China is now: a 6.1% drop following the all time high peak in January of 2014. If the last US recession is any indication, the Chinese economy is now contracting!

 

So much for hopes of 7% GDP growth this year.

The good news, if any, is that Chinese home prices have another 12% to drop before China, which may or may not be in a recession, suffer the US equivalent of the Lehman bankruptcy.