Friday, November 6, 2009
WHAT ME WORRY?
WSJ--Concerns are mounting that efforts by governments and central banks to stoke a recovery will create a nasty side effect: asset bubbles in real-estate, stock and currency markets, especially in Asia.
The World Bank warned Tuesday that the sudden reappearance of billions of dollars in investment capital in East Asia is "raising concerns about asset price bubbles" in equity markets across Asia and in real estate in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam. Also Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund cited "a risk" that surging Hong Kong asset prices are being driven by a flood of capital "divorced from fundamental forces of supply and demand."
Behind the trend are measures such as cutting interest rates and pumping money into the financial system, which have left parts of the world awash in cash and at risk of bubbles, or run-ups in asset prices beyond what economic fundamentals suggest are reasonable.
Asian stock prices are shooting up, in part due to low interest rates in the U.S. Investors looking for higher yields are borrowing in U.S. dollars and then pouring that money "into countries that are growing more rapidly," said Stephen Cecchetti, chief economist at the Bank for International Settlements, the central banks' central bank, which warned early of the last asset bubble and is beginning to do so again. "That runs the risk of creating property and equity booms in those countries."
This is the beginning of another big and excessive run-up in asset prices," said Simon Johnson, a former IMF chief economist.
How stupid can we be?