Resilient end-user demand will continue to support mainland property market sales this year, after a rise in both sales volumes and prices in 2012, according to analysts. Home prices, especially in major cities, could be pushed higher as inventory stocks drop, which might trigger expectations for further policy measures to regulate the market, the analysts said. Data from investment bank Nomura's equity research team showed that the aggregate value of sales of private properties increased by 10 per cent year-on-year in 2012, and by 1.8 per cent in terms of gross floor area sold. Home prices rose 8.1 per cent year-on-year. In the 54 cities monitored by Centaline Property Agency, 66,400 flats were sold in the first 15 days of January. That represented a decline of 13.3 per cent when compared to the first 15 days of December and a 100 per cent rise compared to the same period one year ago. Ma Jun, chief China economist at Deutsche Bank, said in some big cities inventory levels were now as low as five or six months, compared with an average of 10 months. As a result, prices in big cities were expected to come under upward pressure. Conversely, in some inland cities, inventory stocks remained high, Ma said, according to mainland media who quoted him speaking at a forum in Shanghai. Ma said in order to regulate the nation's market the central government could tighten existing measures, including by placing restrictions on mortgage lending. He expected this to be confined to cities where prices were rising strongly. Nomura expected mainland home prices to continue to rise due to the combined effect of moderate home price growth in individual projects and a change in the product mix available to buyers, with more luxury residences available.