Nobel Prize U.S. winner warns of 'bubbly' global home prices

Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:55pm EDT
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By Alister Bull and Johan Ahlander

WASHINGTON/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - One of three American economists who won the 2013 economics Nobel prize on Monday for research into market prices and asset bubbles expressed alarm at the rapid rise in global housing prices.

Robert Shiller, who shared the 8 million Swedish crown ($1.25 million) prize with fellow laureates Eugene Fama and Lars Peter Hansen, said the U.S. Federal Reserve's economic stimulus and growing market speculation were creating a "bubbly" property boom.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences lauded the economists' research on the prices of stocks, bonds and other assets, saying "mispricing of assets may contribute to financial crises and, as the recent global recession illustrates, such crises can damage the overall economy."

This was the case in the collapse of the U.S. housing market, which helped trigger the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. Markets are at risk of committing the same error now, Shiller told Reuters after learning he had won the Nobel prize.

"This financial crisis that we've been going through in the last five years has been one that seems to reveal the failure to understand price movements," Shiller said.

Bubbles are created when investors fail to recognize when rising asset prices become detached from underlying fundamentals.

Shiller and other economists warn that prices in some markets have risen too far, too fast due to the Fed's ultra-easy monetary policy. The benchmark U.S. Standard & Poor's 500 index hit a record in September, though it is generally not considered overvalued based on expectations for corporate earnings results or economic growth.

Shiller's work led him to suggest in 2005 that the U.S. housing market might be overheating. He helped create a closely watched gauge of housing prices, the S&P Case/Shiller Index.   Continued...

Photos of the 2013 Nobel Prize laureates in Economic Sciences Eugene Fama (L-R), Lars Peter Hansen and Robert Shiller are displayed during a news conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm October 14, 2013. REUTERS/Claudio Bresciani/TT News Agency