BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s April property sales by value fell at their fastest pace in at least 12 years as COVID-19 lockdowns further cooled demand despite more policy easing steps aimed at reviving a key sector of the world’s second-largest economy.

In April, property sales by value slumped 46.6% from a year earlier, the fastest pace since at least 2010, and sharply widening from the 26.17% fall in March, according to Reuters calculations based on data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released on Monday.

In January-April, property sales by value fell 29.5% year-on-year, compared with the 22.7% decline in the first three months.

China’s property sector, a major economic growth driver, has been in a severe slump since last year after authorities clamped down on debt-laden developers, spooking many would-be home buyers who feared projects would not be completed.

More than 80 cities have taken steps to boost demand since the beginning of the year, including subsidies, reductions in mortgage rates and smaller down payments.

However, the property outlook has remained bleak amid protracted COVID-19 curbs in dozens of cities, including Shanghai, currently in its seventh week of lockdown.

Chinese financial authorities on Sunday allowed a further cut in mortgage loan interest rates for first-time home buyers to spur demand.

“Although we expect this cut to provide a benefit, the positive impact could be quite limited, as stringent anti-COVID measures appear set to continue for an unspecified time,” Nomura said in a note on Monday.

Nationwide property investment by developers fell 2.7% from a year earlier in January-April, after a 0.7% gain in the first three months of the year.

In April, property investment fell 10.1% year-on-year, the fastest pace since December, compared with the 2.4% decline in March.

New construction starts measured by floor area plunged 44.19% from a year earlier, the fastest pace since January-February 2020.

New construction starts fell 26.3% in January-April from a year earlier, after a 17.5% decline in the first quarter of the year.

Japanese construction equipment maker Komatsu reported a 16.6% fall in the use of its machines in China in April, extending a 17.3% decline in March.

(Reporting by Liangping Gao and Ryan Woo; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Christopher Cushing)