China’s Property Bubble

Guess we’re not the only one with Property Problems.  Here’s a great article from TIME about the growing Chinese Property Bubble that also threatens to burst onto the world scene.

“As he threads his taxicab every day through the epic traffic jams in and around Shanghai, jabbering on his cell phone and muttering under his breath, Yang Jinyu seems an unlikely real estate mogul. But when the government asked him to move out of his central Shanghai home so that the land it was on could be sold for redevelopment, he took the compensation payment and bought an apartment on Shanghai’s outskirts. Eight years later, after cleverly parlaying that first asset, the cabbie owns three apartments in the city and has his eyes on something bigger: a lovely five-bedroom, riverfront suburban house, owned but never occupied by a coal magnate from Shanxi province. “How much does he want for it?” he asked a local real estate agent in late February. When told the answer was $735,000, Yang didn’t blink. “I’d like to make an offer.” (Read “Bubble Trouble: Why Real Estate Is China’s Biggest Headache.”)

On the back of such tales, conventional economic thinking says, dangerous speculative bubbles are built. And these days not much — aside from the possibility of a double-dip recession in the U.S. — has more economists, international investors, hedge-fund managers and bankers tearing their hair out than the deceptively simple question, Is China’s property market a bubble? (See pictures of Shanghai.)

The reason for their angst is clear enough: throughout 2009, the most severe global downturn in decades, China’s economic growth remained intact. This year, China’s GDP will likely rise 9% or more, in contrast to a merely subpar recovery in the U.S. and Europe. For thousands of companies across the globe, anything that threatens China’s buoyancy threatens their own bottom lines. (Witness the sell-off in the S&P 500 on Feb. 12, when Beijing’s central bank raised by a tick the so-called reserve ratio requirement for its banks.) And nothing, not even massive government infrastructure spending, has driven China’s growth more than real estate investment.

Last year, total fixed-asset investment accounted for more than 90% of China’s overall growth; residential and commercial real estate investment comprised nearly a quarter of that. Toss in the not insignificant fact that it was a huge real estate bust in the U.S. that dumped the world into recession in the first place, and many analysts are now beginning to fear the worst. “China’s property market,” says independent Shanghai economist Andy Xie, “is a massive bubble.”

Read the full article HERE.

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