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The country posted its first decline in six quarters as the government’s cooling measures imposed in July started to take effect

Private residential prices slid 0.1% in the last three months of the year, according to preliminary data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Luxury was the segment that hit the hardest, with prices in prime areas dropping 1.5% after climbing 1.3% in the previous quarter. Still, the index posted a 7.9% gain for 2018 on the whole—the best annual increase in eight years.

 “The cooling measures coupled with the U.S.-China trade war and volatility in stock markets have hit the high-end homes segment,” stated Christine Li, head of research for Singapore at Cushman & Wakefield Inc.

“Also a dearth of new launches in the prime areas could have resulted in weaker prices.” She added.

Singapore authorities have kept the property market on a tight leash since the early 2010s in attempting to avoid runaway prices like those seen in Hong Kong. In July, government imposed higher stamp duties and tougher loan-to-value rules to choke off a sudden bout of exuberance. The earlier resurgence had been marked by aggressive land bids from developers and an explosion in en-bloc sales, where apartment owners usually band together to sell entire buildings.

This year, prices will rise a maximum of 3% — or even stay flat or decline — according to estimates from four real estate firms, after last year’s resurgence prompted a renewed clampdown. Home sales are forecast to once again lag behind 2017 levels.

Extra constraints since July have included curbs on the number of “shoe-box” apartments, limiting transactions at the cheaper end of the market, and anti-money laundering rules that imposed an additional administrative burden on developers. The government is slowing the release of land for residential use in the first half of 2019, citing a spike in supply and cooling demand.

Prices of prime-area apartments rose 6.2% in 2018, while those in suburban areas gained 9.5%, showed the latest data.

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