bubbles

All posts tagged bubbles

The rationalizations that I’m noticing from people who want to deny the existence of a housing bubble are becoming more obviously contrived.
Last spring, the strangest one I noticed was this Tyler Cowen post, which notes the unusual rent-buy ratios, then ignores that anomaly and devotes the rest of the post to questioning a weaker argument for the housing bubble theory.
This month I noticed someone on a private mailing list who had enough sense to realize that current housing prices probably depend on a continuation of unusually low and stable long-term interest rates expressed confidence that the “psychological consensus against inflation” would make that likely. If such a consensus existed, I would have expected to see people expressing concern that the Fed’s policy being too inflationary, when in fact I see people jumping at any excuse (e.g. a hurricane) to advocate a more inflationary policy. Plus I see politicians racing to expand the federal debt to levels that will give them massive incentives to inflate or default when the baby boomers retire.
Now Chris Hibbert comes up with some stranger rationalizations:

The worst historical cases that I know of were times when housing prices dropped 10 or 20 percent.

I thought he read Marginal Revolution regularly, but that comment suggests he is unaware of this description of Shiller’s apparently more accurate housing price history which includes what looks like a 50 percent drop in U.S. housing prices. But that deals with a national average, which gives you the kind of diversification you might get with a mutual fund. Chris’s real estate investments sound less diverse – is that safer?
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Greenspan and bubbles

According to an October 19 Bloomberg article, Greenspan said:

"Housing price bubbles presuppose an ability of market participants
to trade properties as they speculate about the future," and the
expense and difficulty of moving "are significant impediments to
speculative trading and an important restraint on the development of
housing price bubbles,"

I wonder how he would describe the Japanese real estate prices of the late 1980s.
It might not be a coincidence that the dollar has dropped against gold and other currencies the past couple of days.

I’m not yet willing to bet money that a significant housing bubble is developing in the U.S., but it wouldn’t take too much for me to decide it’s time for such a bet.