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UPDATE 1-China home prices pick up pace in April despite curbs

* April new home prices +0.7 pct m/m vs +0.6 pct in March

* On-year growth in April +10.7 pct vs +11.3 pct in March

* Accelerated price gains likely supported by demand in smaller cities - analyst

* Resale market price growth quickened more than new homes

* More cities saw prices fall or growth slowing - NBS

BEIJING, May 17 (Reuters) - Home prices in China rose 0.7 percent in April, barely faster than the 0.6 percent increase in March, following tougher curbs aimed at driving speculators out of what had been a red hot market.

Compared with a year ago, new home prices in China's 70 major cities rose 10.7 percent in April, moderating from 11.3 percent in March, according to Reuters calculations based on data issued by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Thursday.

Analysts say accelerated prices gains were likely supported by increased demand in smaller cities where property market curbs are less stiff.

Prices in China's smaller cities, or known as tier-3 cities, grew 0.9 percent in April from a month ago, accelerating from an increase of 0.8 percent in March, while growth in tier-2 cities meanwhile remained flat at 0.6 pct, but in tier-1 cities the rate of increase halved to 0.3 percent, Yan Yuejin, an analyst with E-House China R&D Institute, said after analyzing the official data.

Regulators have intensified their crackdown on speculators since late March by taking tougher measures in at least two dozen cities to stop home prices from surging.

The curbs seemed to be working, as NBS data released on Monday had showed the area of property sold in April grew by slowest rate since December 2015.

Prices actually fell in April, or at least their rise slowed in 31 cities surveyed, compared with 18 cities in March, the NBS said in a note accompanying the data release on Thursday.

In China's biggest cities, prices for new units in Beijing grew at a slower pace on a monthly basis, while Shanghai prices dropped 0.1 percent, as local governments' tightening measures continued to take the heat off the market.

Shenzhen prices stayed unchanged in April, compared to a fall of 0.3 percent in March.

Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen prices rose 16 percent, 13.2 percent, and 6.6 percent, respectively, from a year earlier.

Still, prices in China's metropolises remained at elevated levels. A state think tank said on Monday that Beijing was the most expensive city in April with a median price of 63,647 yuan ($9,231) per square meter, or $858 per square feet, followed by Shanghai, Shenzhen and coastal city Xiamen.

Home prices in China's biggest cities were likely rise if government curbs were relaxed, a senior official from the country's top economic planner was quoted as saying in late April, suggesting that won't ha 1/8ppen any time soon.

China's property resale market has started to be seen as more indicative of actual demand as it is not subject to the kinds of price caps widely applied to new projects to rein in price rises.

For existing homes, home prices rose 0.8 percent from a month ago, unchanged from the reading in March but still faster than the price growth for new sales projects, Reuters' calculations based on NBS data showed.

In contrast, the National Academy of Economic Strategy (NAES) of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a top government think tank, said China's property resale market cooled a notch in April due to intensified government curbs. It said chances of prices falling across the board are slim due to a shortage of housing supply.

(Reporting by Yawen Chen and Ryan Woo; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)