Economist Nouriel Roubini is warning that 11 countries are showing indications of potential housing bubbles – an alarming prospect for the global economy, which is still recovering from the aftereffects of burst housing bubbles in the United States and elsewhere. He identifies another six countries in which major urban areas may have housing bubbles.
Those 17 countries with possible housing bubbles are mapped above in red. The lighter-red countries have housing bubbles in major urban areas only. You'll notice that this map includes very rich countries such as Switzerland and Norway along with enormous rising economies such as India and Indonesia. Perhaps most alarming, if least surprising, Roubini joins the rising chorus of economists warning that China's housing market is dangerously over-inflated. (He identifies mainland China as well as Hong Kong.)
Here's the list of countries identified as having possible housing bubbles, from West to East: Canada, France, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Israel, China (mainland plus Hong Kong), Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
And the countries with possible housing bubbles in major urban areas, West to East: Brazil, United Kingdom (just London), Turkey, India and Indonesia.
Colleague Neil Irwin explains what's going on:
The major economies have been growing only slowly. Yet with low interest rates and aggressive central bank action across the globe, there is a giant pool of money that has to go somewhere. That somewhere has not been productive new investments, like companies building new factories. Rather, it has come in the form of people taking advantage of cheap credit to bid up the price of existing real estate in cities from Stockholm to Sydney.
If these countries do turn out to have housing bubbles, and if those bubbles burst, Neil warns that it could actually be even worse than last time. Worse!
Perhaps scariest of all, if Roubini is right, is that if these are bubbles that eventually pop, policymakers will not have the tools they had in 2008 to cushion the blow. The world's central banks, in particular, don't have much (arguably any) room to lower interest rates further.
Let's hope these economies are able to head off potential bubbles before the burst. China has certainly been trying, with decidedly mixed success.