(Jan 4): Australian home price growth stalled in December as tighter lending rules and higher mortgage rates took the heat out of the Sydney market, though the overall result masked wide differences across the major cities.

Monday's figures from property consultant CoreLogic RP Data showed its national index of prices was unchanged in December, after a decline of 1.4% the month before.

Annual growth in home values slowed further to 7.8%, from 8.2% in November and a cycle peak of 11.5%.

Much of the weakness was concentrated in the once high-flying Sydney market, where prices fell 1.2& in December to be down 2.3% for the fourth quarter. Yet, prices were still up over 11% for 2015 as a whole.

Values fared better in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, which all saw gains in December.

"The wealth created from housing in Sydney and Melbourne has been exceptional over the past twelve months," said RPData's head of research Tim Lawless.

Median values for Sydney homes rose by around A$82,000 for the year to A$800,000 (US$583,000), while Melbourne put on A$60,400 to A$610,000.

The recent slowdown in prices follows efforts by regulators to tighten lending standards for property investment with the aim of keeping annual growth in loans at 10% or less.

The major Australian banks also announced increases in mortgage rates both for investors and home owners, blaming higher regulatory costs.

The cooling in prices has been welcomed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), which has been worried that excess borrowing for home investment could ultimately lead to a bubble.

(Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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