China is now on the same bubble path as Japan post-1987 crash

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This article by Peter Tasker, a well-regarded financial analyst in Asia, comes via the Financial Times (hat tip Marshall). He sees an enormous bubble forming in China – and parallels to Japan circa 1987:

Emerging markets, it seems, have had a good crisis. In contrast to the debt-ridden G7 economies, they have quickly resumed their growth trajectory. No surprise, then, that US emerging market mutual funds are experiencing record inflows. The stellar performance of the Brics markets – Brazil, Russia, Indian and China – is due to continue into the distant future.

Such is the narrative now forming among investors. To anyone who has lived through the rise and fall of the Japanese bubble economy, it should set off alarm bells.

Remember that it was in the years following the 1987 "Black Monday" crash that Japanese assets went from being expensive to absurdly overvalued and the Nikkei’s dizzy rise to 39,000 forced the bears to throw in the towel…

But what you saw was decidedly not what you got. The crisis, far from leaving Japan unscathed, exacerbated its structural problems and laid the groundwork for a far greater disaster…

Interest rates have been far too low for far too long. If the natural interest rate is, as the Swedish economist Knut Wicksell posited, around the level of nominal GDP growth, then China’s interest rates should have been close to 10 per cent for most of this decade. Alan Greenspan, former chief of the US Federal Reserve, has been criticised for holding interest rates too low and setting off a housing and credit bubble in the US. But if US monetary policy was wrong for the US, it was even more wrong for the high-growth countries that "imported" it. The result could only be a massive misallocation of capital…

At the 2008 peak, the price-to-book ratio of the Shanghai stock exchange was over seven times, well above the five times achieved by Japanese stocks in 1989. After the turbulence of the past 18 months, the ratio has fallen to 3.3 times, still the world’s second highest after India, and residential real estate trades at multiples of income that make the US housing boom look tame…

What is scary is that the current frothiness of emerging markets, centred on China, may be only a taste of what is to come.

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There is a lot more in the original article. Link below.

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China rushes towards a Japan-style bubble – Financial Times

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