PETALING JAYA: The freeze on luxury properties and the possible rate hike next year are expected to affect market sentiment, according to analysts. Kenanga Research foresees some knee-jerk reaction to developers’ share prices over the next few days. The Properties Index fell as much as 11.83 points or 1% to 1211.60 points yesterday, before closing 9.93 points or 0.81% lower at 1213.50 points. SP Setia was the top loser among all property stocks with a drop of 10 sen or 2.9% to RM3.39, followed by Gamuda Bhd and Eastern & Oriental Bhd, which fell 7 sen and 6 sen to RM4.70 and RM1.41. Kenanga Research said it was surprised by the government’s move to freeze luxury properties given that the property market has stabilised and most developers’ pipeline of launches are now focused on townships or affordable housing supply as demand for commercial spaces and luxury condominiums has been very weak over the last few years. Among stocks under its coverage, UOA Development Bhd and Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd have the highest exposure to development in KL while other developers such as Eco World Development Group Bhd, Mah Sing Group Bhd, SP Setia Bhd and Sunway Bhd have moderate exposure. However, most of their projects have secured the necessary master plan approvals. Nonetheless, Kenanga Research said the measure is good for Kuala Lumpur in the long run and may benefit developers with on-going commercial or luxury condominium projects. The research firm noted that it could provide a window for developers with light balance sheet to acquire prime commercial land bank in view of less demand given the freeze, while taking a longer-term development view on the land. Kenanga Research is maintaining a “neutral” call on the property sector pending Q3 reporting season. On possible rate hikes next year, it said a 50-basis-point increase in average lending rates will result in a 5%-6% increase in monthly mortgage payments for those who have taken 90% margin of financing. With that, housing affordability is likely to deteriorate further unless banks are willing to absorb further margin compression from lower lending rates, not to mention the cost-push inflation effect on property replacement costs. The possible rate hike may also dampen the current demand momentum as some buyers may take a “wait-and-see” stance. Meanwhile, PublicInvest Research is maintaining a “neutral” view on the property sector considering that it is still hobbled by the somewhat high household debt of 84.6% to GDP ratio amid weakened housing affordability and strict lending by banks. The Real Estate and Housing Developers Association has yet to come out with a statement on the issue as at press time.