PRICES for luxury residential property have leapt 17 per cent over the past three months, prompting fears that banks might take even sterner measures to cool mortgage lending. The latest Jones Lang Wootton Property Index, due to be released today, also shows that average Grade A office prices have climbed 16.7 per cent over the past quarter in the largest such rise since 1988. Meanwhile, office rentals have continued their rapid recovery, jumping 12.8 per cent over the period, well ahead of analysts' expectations. The Government's measures to keep the lid on Hongkong's bubbling property sector seems to have had only limited effect. The number of property sales and purchase transactions in June were well over 12,000, the bulk of which were for residential units. This compares to a monthly average of 4,000 to 6,000 transactions since the signing of the Sino-British agreement in 1984. What is probably most alarming for the Government is the recent recovery in mass residential property prices, illustrating that the banks' 70 per cent maximum mortgage lending limit has failed to deter many home-buyers. Mass market prices, which dipped five to 12 per cent in the latter part of last year - nine months after Government-backed mortgage-lending restrictions were introduced - are now returning to the levels seen early last summer at the height of speculativeactivity. ''For many private housing estates, prices are back to their June 1992 levels and look set to resume their upward trend,'' said Mr Peter Churchouse, a principal at Morgan Stanley Asia. ''The latest sales-and-purchases figures show we could be gearing up for another spate of speculative activity,'' he added. ''If this trend is sustained, banks could drop their mortgage-lending ratios, perhaps, to as far as 50 per cent.'' While Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp executive director Paul Selway-Swift thought the prospect of a 50 per cent ceiling a bit excessive, he did concede that a further tightening of the bank's property lending policies was a possibility. On July 5, Hongkong Bank announced it would lower from 70 per cent to 60 per cent the maximum amount it would be prepared to lend buyers of properties worth more than $5 million. Mr Selway-Swift said that if prices and activity continued spiralling the bank might choose to extend its new ceiling to all home loans. ''This is certainly something I am loathed to do, because I realise the difficulty genuine home buyers have in making a large down-payment . . . but a number of banks have been worried about their exposure,'' he said. ''We have got a responsibility to make sure we have a good spread of risk in our portfolio.'' Mr Selway-Swift added: ''The question is, how long can high price-rises like this go on for?'' China's recently announced austerity programme may mean less office-buying in Hongkong by mainland corporations, which could, in turn, have a dampening effect on price rises in this sector. But China's efforts to cool its own property industry is also expected to cause many Hongkong speculators, who have been investing in mainland residential property, to switch their interests back to the territory's property-buying arena. Meanwhile, the JLW index showed luxury residential rentals had increased by 8.3 per cent since April and overall residential rents by 7.7 per cent. Mr Michael Green, director of S. G. Warburg Securities, said: ''More residential rent rises are likely to come. The momentum is increasing. ''We are now coming to the seasonal peak of expatriates, needing rented accommodation, moving to Hongkong. ''Demand for luxury apartments is likely to be even more severe this year with the airport core project well under way and more technical and engineering work expected to start sooner rather than later.''