D-day for Australia’s Real Estate Bubble?

Unknowable Degrees of Bubble Insanity
Back in February, we brought you an update on the truly insane real estate bubble in Australia (see: ‘Australia’s Housing Bubble – In the Grip of Insanity’ for details) in the wake of Jonathan Tepper of Variant Perception reporting on an eye-opening fact-finding tour in Sydney.
As every seasoned market observer knows though, the fact that a bubble has obviously attained crazy proportions does not mean it cannot become even crazier. We only need to think back to the Nikkei index in the late 1980s, the Nasdaq in the late 1990s, or the grand-daddy of modern-day bubble insanity, the Souk Al-Manakh bubble in Kuwait in the early 1980s.
The latter example is generally less well known than the others, but it is unsurpassed in terms of sheer mass dementia. What made this bubble so special – at its peak Kuwait’s stock market had a total capitalization of more than $100 billion, which made it the third-largest equity market in the world behind the US and Japan at the time, a fact that should have told market participants they were skating on very thin ice – was the use of post-dated checks to pay for stock purchases.
The bubble needed a trigger to pop, and that trigger was delivered when one day, a single one of these post-dated checks actually bounced. One of the biggest market crashes in history ensued – a truly dramatic wipe-out, that in the end destroyed the country’s entire OTC stock market.
As we have pointed out previously, while residential real estate is actually a consumer good, analytically it should be treated as akin to a capital good maintained over several consecutive stages of production, as it renders its services over a very long period of time (the same principle holds for other durable goods – see J. H. de Soto, Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles).
One implication of this is that interest rates are very important to the valuation of real estate. At present, the administered central bank interest rate in Australia is at a new low, and since it remains actually high compared to similar rates in other developed countries, it may well decline even further.

This post was published at Acting-Man on August 2, 2016.