Whack-A-Mole in China’s Bubbly Housing Market


By Nigel Chalk

(Version in 中文)

 It has gone out of fashion now but, not so long ago, there was a popular fairground attraction called Whack-A-Mole. Rascally moles would pop their cute little heads out of holes in the ground and your task was to use a giant rubber mallet to wallop the poor critters back from where they came. China’s bubbly housing market makes me think that this game could be ready for a comeback.

There’s a lot of talk these days of a bubble in China’s property market. Certainly there’s no shortage of super-sharp investors and analysts that have very strong (and very diverse) views—see what  James Chanos, Andy Rothman, and Nouriel Roubini have to say.

The China team at the IMF is regularly asked about this. The question crops up in many different guises: Is China’s property sector going to crash? What about all those empty apartments that have no one living in them? Have you seen the remarkable and pristine ghost towns in Ordos? Isn’t all this going to end badly? Continue reading

Reigniting Growth in Emerging Europe


By Marek Belka

As the deep recession in Europe’s emerging market countries finally comes to an end, the question on everyone’s minds is where  growth in the region will come from in the years ahead. Exports are rebounding, and domestic demand is showing signs of stabilization. Most countries will see positive GDP growth this year—a stark difference from 2009. But a return to the high growth rates that preceded the crisis is highly unlikely.

An unbalanced picture

During the boom years, Eastern Europe grew rapidly, but growth in many countries was rather unbalanced. Capital inflows were large, but to a great extent went to the “non-tradable” sector—in particular, real estate, construction, and banking. Capital flows boosted domestic demand rather than supply—leading to a surge in imports, current account deficits that widened to unprecedented levels, and overheating economies.

This kind of growth will not come back. The domestic demand boom came to an end in the fall of 2008.  In the global financial turmoil that followed the demise of Lehman Brothers, capital flows to Eastern Europe plunged, leading to a sharp decline in domestic demand. Further exacerbated by a decline in exports, this contributed a deep economic downturn—in the Baltics and Ukraine, GDP declined between 14 and 19 percent last year.

Continue reading

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