The Chinese government has raised the deposit requirement to 50 per cent (from 40) on purchases of second homes, in an apparent bid to dampen enthusiasm for property speculation. First-time buyers will also need bigger deposits – a minimum of 30 per cent, up from 20 per cent – where the property covers more than 90 square metres.

Reuters also reports that banks must set mortgage rates on second homes at a minimum of 1.1 times the central bank’s benchmark rate. At the moment, banks can charge rates they deem appropriate. Read more

European house prices are more sensitive than American house prices to credit supply shocks. But there is a stronger role for housing in the transmission of monetary policy shocks in the US than in Europe.

These are the main findings of an ECB working paper just out that compares housing, consumption and monetary policy in the US and EU. Read more

Is Norway calling the bottom of global property markets? Its central bank has given approval for its oil-funded sovereign wealth fund to invest up to 5 per cent ($22bn) in the asset class.  “Investments will principally be made in well-developed markets and within traditional types of real estate,” Finance Minister Sigbjoern Johnsen told Reuters. “We must be prepared for real estate prices to fluctuate a good deal.”

Norway has form calling turning points. Last year the fund was allowed to increase its proportion of equity holdings to 60 per cent. During that year, major indices rose about 50 per cent. The fund made 13.5 per cent in Q3 alone. I wonder if they’re planning to reduce the equity proportion now (Bloomberg).

“Investors view this as shockingly bad news”: one assessment of Dubai’s request for a freeze on all financing to Dubai World, the government’s heavily indebted flagship holding company. The requested freeze would last till May 30, and would cover DW’s troubled property unit Nakheel, which is due to pay back $4bn on an Islamic bond on December 14. Dubai sovereign CDS spreads rose 130bps from an overnight level of 318 and LSE shares fell – the exchange has a 20 per cent stake in Borse Dubai.

Meanwhile the “gold up, dollar down” trends continue. Sri Lanka has bought 10 tonnes of gold from the IMF Read more

The ratings agencies have been busy: we are awash with downgrades and warnings. First up, S&P. They have ranked banks’ health using a new methodology, and it makes for grim reading. Just nine of 45 banks exceeded the minimum “risk-adjusted capital” ratio (for example, HSBC did well; UBS and Citigroup less so). The results are important because the new methodology foreshadows the new capital regime ratio likely to be adopted by Basel next year. S&P conclusion: “Capital for the majority of banks remains a relative weakness.”

Next, Fitch has downgraded Mexico to BBB, just two notches above junk status. Read more

Capital control, anyone? Emerging markets are taking action to curb currency appreciation. Brazil – whose economy is recovering well – introduced a 2% tax on foreign capital inflows last month, and has just announced a further measure, effective today: there will be a tax on American depositary receipts, which allow foreigners to invest easily in Brazilian stocks. Meanwhile Indonesia has announced possible capital controls, sending its currency sharply lower.

The flight to gold continues, Read more

Forget carry trades, forget risk appetite: “Changes in the dollar correlate more closely to changes in international reserves than any other variable since 1999.” So China has “far more control over the price of the dollar than the US.”  The US has little control over the dollar, especially treasury secretary Tim Geithner, in spite of his oft-stated desire for a strong dollar, agrees The Economist: “Yeah, right. I have a “strong man” policy under which I intend to become world heavyweight champion. I’m just not planning to do anything about it, like train or fight someone.” Read more

The IMF has issued a warning about asset price bubbles forming in Latin America, echoing concerns about bubbles in East Asia. As regulators and legislators in the US and UK argue over the best way to prevent another Lehman’s, the US government enters into a new $5.6bn bail-out Read more

China, India and Australia should all consider tightening monetary policy, says the IMF. Emerging economies show healthy signs, as US legislators fight to keep the house market moving, against falling prices, credit warnings and reduced mortgage applications Read more

Some consensus among the American media that extending the US housing tax credit is a bad idea. And a conflict between those who think banks should be made smaller, and legislators, who are currently pursuing a strategy of better monitoring and increased powers over big banks Read more