I think this is a bug, and if I'm right the workaround is to use an action= rather than an actionListener.
Can you give this a try?
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Why don't you use an "action" instead of an "actionListener" ? Since "actionListener" is executed during an earlier JSF life cycle phase than "action", probably that the setPropertyActionListener happens between both, so using "action" will solve your problem.
If you really can't use "action", here is a blog entry about the same problem and a workaround : http://codedrawer.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/jsf-actionlistener-and-fsetpropertyactionlistener-wont-work-together/
I am not sure whether the difference will matter to me, but for now I will stick with action. Seems to work just fine.
I guess I was under impression that actionListener was the proper way to go since action can return url for redirection... apparently I was wrong.
p.s. funny thing I cannot mark more than one post as "correct answer". I guess people making this forum weren't really philosophical.