NHB sees dip in home loan growth, blames higher prices

"I think the main reason for the current sluggishness is the high property prices. If the property prices come down, there could be an increase in demand even if the interest rates go up a little," NHB chairman and managing director RV Verma said

Mumbai: Housing finance watchdog National Housing Bank (NHB) has said demand for home loans will slow down in the next few months due to high property prices, reports PTI.

"Housing loans can be a bit sluggish because buyers feel there is no way of getting properties at a reasonable price, (and) they are postponing their purchases," NHB chairman and managing director RV Verma told reporters here over the weekend.

Since April, home loan growth has been 16% to 17%, which is 1 percentage point lower than the previous fiscal. He further said he sees credit offtake lower at over 15% for the full fiscal.

Mr Verma, however, maintained that it is booming property prices, rather than the repeated rate hikes by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), that is affecting demand.

"I think the main reason for the current sluggishness is the high property prices. If the property prices come down, there could be an increase in demand even if the interest rates go up a little," he said.

The RBI has increased key short-term rates by a record 12 times over the last 18 months, with an eye to tame uncomfortably high inflation, which stood at 9.78% for August.

Home loan buyers, especially those who are on floating interest rates, are one of the worst-affected categories of buyers affected by the higher interest rates, as the cost of servicing loans obtained at lower rates has gone up.

Mr Verma said the NHB has asked housing finance companies to monitor loans, especially those at floating rates, closely to look for any signs of stress building up.

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Quake toll rises to 40, relief operations in full swing

Four teams of the National Disaster Response Force have been rushed to Sikkim and five more teams were being sent from Kolkata, cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth told reporters after a meeting of top officials in Delhi convened on the direction of prime minister Manmohan Singh

Gangtok: The death toll in the powerful earthquake that struck Sikkim on Sunday evening rose to 40 with 19 people being killed in the state, five in West Bengal, seven each in Nepal and Tibet even as rescue and relief operations were today stepped up in the affected areas, reports PTI.

Over a hundred people have been injured in the 6.8 magnitude tremblor which has caused extensive damage to buildings and roads in Sikkim and several other places.

The casualties have occurred mostly in the North District and in towns and villages like Rangpo, Dikchu, Singtam and Chungthang located along the course of Teesta river, they said.

In Gangtok, power was restored this morning. Residents had spent the night outside their houses fearing aftershocks.

At least 20 aftershocks throughout the night had created panic in the city.

Rescue teams have been dispatched to various affected areas this morning, the officials said. The toll in Sikkim till last night was seven.

In West Bengal, the toll rose to five with reports reaching Kolkata saying that two deaths have occurred in Kalimpong area in Darjeeling while one person each was killed in Siliguri and Jalpaiguri areas and one in a tea garden in Doors.

Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported that at least seven persons have been killed and 22 others injured in Tibet in the quake which has caused landslides and has disrupted traffic, power and water supplies as well as telecommunication in Yadong County, an area 40km away from Sikkim.

Three people were killed at Lainchaur in Kathmandu, two in Sunsari district, and one each in Dhankuta and Sankhuwasabha districts in eastern Nepal, according to home ministry sources in the Nepalese capital.

Many buildings in and around Gangtok have collapsed and around 85% of structures and houses have developed cracks due to the quake that hit Sikkim and other areas last evening, they said.

Most of the areas in north Sikkim have been cut-off from the rest of the country as roads were blocked and communication lines got snapped.

The Sadar police station in Gangtok was badly damaged due to the tremor.

All BSNL telephone landlines in the city have gone dead since last evening.

The epicentre of the quake-the biggest in two decades-was located at Mangan and Sakyong areas, over 50km from Gangtok on the Sikkim-Nepal border.

In Bihar, two persons were killed in Nalanda and Darbhanga districts, official sources said. A five-year-old girl and a youth were the two victims, they said.

Tremors were also felt in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chandigarh and Delhi.

Four teams of the National Disaster Response Force have been rushed to Sikkim and five more teams were being sent from Kolkata, cabinet secretary Ajit Kumar Seth told reporters last night after a meeting of top officials in Delhi convened on the direction of prime minister Manmohan Singh.

"The Prime Minister himself is monitoring the developments connected to the quake," Mr Seth had said.

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The looming debt crisis in China

Finally, analysts are sounding the alarm bell on the state of Chinese banks.

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