The Year of the Ox, which begins in five days, looks more likely to bring out a bear than a bull for the Hong Kong property market - at least for the first nine months of the year, analysts say.

But as the year draws to a close, opportunities may arise. So property investors may be wise to begin doing their homework early, they add.

Meanwhile, expect further price declines as the global financial crisis leads to more corporate failures, job losses and declining economic activity - all of which can combine to drag property prices lower until the final quarter.

And no matter whether it turns out to be a bad or good market, some investment rules will need to be closely observed.

Raymond Lee Wai-man, the managing director of Savills in Hong Kong, said: '2009 is the Year of the Ox. What is the character of an ox? The answer is that oxen work all the time. And so this implies that people will have to work very hard if they want to maintain their wealth.'

South China Morning Post