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

Getting the Diagnosis Right: Avoiding a Housing Price Bubble in Hong Kong SAR


By Nigel Chalk

(Version in 中文)

In the past couple of years, Hong Kong has witnessed a sharp increase in property prices. This has led some to claim that the time has come to change Hong Kong’s “Linked Exchange Rate System”.

This represents a misdiagnosis of the current situation and the wrong prescription for Hong Kong.

It is true that the average cost of an apartment in Hong Kong has risen by almost 20 percent in the past year alone. This stands in stark contrast to what our latest World Economic Outlook described as the dismal outlook for real estate markets in the industrial countries.

And, like many countries in the region, Hong Kong has been the destination for an extraordinary amount of global capital over the past two years.

But how much of these trends have been a product of the exchange rate regime? Continue reading

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