That didn't take long.
Earlier this week we reported that after 19 straight months of continued acceleration in home prices, China's latest housing bubble may have finally burst (again) after December prices in the 70 cities tracked by the NBS, rose by 12.7%, below the 12.9% annual growth rate in the previous month - the first annual decline in nearly 2 years.
Fast forward to Friday, when at least two major Chinese private providers of home price data stopped publishing the figures, just as the housing market is stating to cool off at a dramatic pace across all Tier cities. According to Reuters, the China Index Academy, a unit of U.S.-listed Fang Holdings, has stopped distributing monthly housing price index data for 100 cities that it usually issued at the start of the month. The academy said it had suspended distribution indefinitely, without giving a reason for the suspension.
"I don't know who exactly is making the order, and it's not mandatory," said a source with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified as the topic is a sensitive one.
Home price data from private providers tends to show sharper increases than official data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which publishes monthly and annual percentage changes in 70 major cities. It also overextends on the downside, which according to official data, has now begun, and may explain the self-imposed censorship.
Since last summer, in an attempt to cool the overheating housing market, China's government had levied curbs on buying and ownership to rein in soaring prices and limit asset bubble risks. E-house China, another influential private real estate consultancy also indefinitely suspended its monthly housing price index for 288 cities.
"Judged by current conditions, we won't publish it in the future," said Cherilyn Tsui, a public relations officer at CRIC, the consultancy's real estate research branch. "We stopped distributing prices data a few months ago. At first it was just no external distribution, but now even internally we don't distribute any more," she told Reuters.
While Tsui said she did not know the reason for the halt, she added that data on sales volumes and inventories would still be published.
"Housing prices are an extremely sensitive matter right now," a second source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. Perhaps the reason is that having created a massive bubble to the upside, Beijing is hoping to delay the descent in prices in order to attain a smooth landing at a time when China is already faced with record capital outflows, a plunging currency and all time high levels of debt.
E-house's last data release in November said new home prices in Beijing and Shanghai rose 1.32 percent and 1.09 percent in October, respectively, on the month. The NBS reported an increase of 0.5 percent. In light of the slowdown reported by the official data, one can surmise that the December print would have been quite dire. In China Index Academy's last data release in December, new home prices in Beijing and Shanghai rose 0.84 percent and 0.88 percent in November, while the NBS reported prices unchanged.
The NBS usually publishes price data around the 19th of the month, and private providers issue it earlier.
Meanwhile, the NBS denied it had ordered the data suspension. "We didn't ask that. It's not true," an NBS representative told Reuters by telephone, when asked if it had asked private real estate consultants to halt distribution.
Why would one doubt the sincerity of Chinese government organization? Perhaps the same reason that also last week, China - facing daily smog alerts and a population which has grown weary and angry of Beijing's unwillingness to address the issue - ordered its local weather bureaus to stop issuing smog alerts.
Which brings us back to a question we asked earlier in the week: if, as circumstantial evidence shows, the Chinese housing bubble has finally hit its inflection point and is headed downward, prompting the momentum chasers to flee, the question is whether the Chinese stock market is about to once again become the bubble choice du jour, as happened in mid to late 2014 and early 2015, when the bursting of the home bubble pushed the housing speculators into the stock market with scary, if entertaining, consequences. And, as we concluded, "it may not be a bad idea to buy some deep out of the money calls on the Shenzhen composite, as that is the place where the most degenerate of Chinese gamblers eventually congregate to every time the housing bubble bursts, only to be reincarnated two years down the line."
News like today's only validates our suspicion that Chinese stocks are about to soar yet again.