Insight: Property hot spots renew easy-money bubble fears

Fri Nov 1, 2013 10:40am EDT
 
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By Alan Wheatley and Tim Reid

LONDON/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - From China to Canada and London, fast-rising property markets are haunting the global economy again, five years after the U.S. subprime mortgage bubble burst and triggered the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.

For now, house price inflation is neither as high nor as widespread as it was in the middle of last decade. Except in a few cases, the warning signals are flashing amber, not red, and several countries have acted to cool overheating markets.

But the confidence of policy makers that they can avoid another generalized boom and bust could be tested if central banks keep pumping out nearly free money to support economic growth by encouraging investment in riskier assets such as equities and property.

Plentiful cheap credit is just one more inducement to home buyers who, in many countries, can deduct mortgage interest from their taxable income or are exempted from capital gains tax when they sell their house, said Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at Warwick University in Britain.

"We're stoking up a huge bubble. It's quite extraordinary. We virtually ruined the Western world by having high house price inflation and now we're determined to do it again," he said.

AMERICAN RENAISSANCE

On the face of it, the reacceleration in U.S. house prices spells trouble.   Continued...

 
A general view of a new subdivision of recently sold single family homes in San Marcos, California October 25, 2013. From China to Canada and London, fast-rising property markets are haunting the global economy again, five years after the U.S. subprime mortgage bubble burst and triggered the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.REUTERS/Mike Blake