bubble

James Mackintosh

FT Alphaville today has a nice chart suggesting London house prices are down by more than a quarter in real terms.

Here’s an alternative thought: the quality of measurement of London house prices has collapsed. This chart shows London house prices after inflation as measured by LSL/Acadametrics, the Office for National Statistics, Nationwide, and the Halifax index Alphaville used. I used CPI, rather than the discredited RPI, for most of them, but showed the effects of both RPI and CPI for the Acadametrics series.

London housing indices

Halifax down at the bottom there is clearly out of line with the rest, although Nationwide’s index still shows a hefty real terms loss, of 9 per cent. Read more

John Authers

Today sees the publication of Credit Suisse’s annual Global Investment Returns Yearbook, a mammoth piece of research into global long-run returns overseen by the London Business School academics Elroy Dimson, Paul Marsh and Mike Staunton. It is an invaluable resource, and this blog is likely to mine its contents for some days to come.

Revisions for this year help ram home one quick and spectacular lesson from history. Baron Nathan Rothschild is widely believed (wrongly, according to historian Niall Ferguson) to have said that you should “buy when there’s blood in the streets”.

Much of the time this advice works. Buying into Japan or Germany after the second world war would have worked out extremely well, and the greatest buying opportunities almost by definition come when it seems almost mad to buy.

But the aphorism is not infallible. This year, the academics tried to address their concern that their global stock market index suffered from “survivorship bias”. So they have recalculated them including three new countries that were not previously covered in their attempts to calculated the global equity risk premium: China, Russia and Austria. Adding these nations hugely changes the perception of long-term risk.

Let’s start in Russia. Any bold contrarians who decided in the late 19th century to bet on Tsarist Russia to outperform the US for the long-term, and held on even during the great political unrest of the attempted revolution of 1905, would for a long time have looked very clever.

The chart compares the St Petersburg stock exchange’s composite index performance with that of New York. After 1917, of course, the value of any equity investment in Russia was wiped out. This might appear to be an exceptional example. But it is not. China also had a revolution that led to the closing down of its stock market (and of capitalism for a while), and that happened within living memory. On the eve of the second world war, China’s returns looked very healthy. With the arrival of Mao, shares went to zero (and international investors have had a rough ride even since Chinese stock markets reopened).

Using the MSCI China index, covering stocks available to international investors, those who bought in 1993 have actually lost money. But Chinese stock markets have been recovering recently. And, deliciously for those who like historical ironies, the Shanghai Composite, the main domestic index, bottomed last year at 1949, the year of the revolution. Read more

James Mackintosh

A Chinese company is setting out to build the world’s tallest building in Changsha, central China, aiming to go from start to finish in just three months.

Aside from the impact of the amazing technique (assuming it works) on the construction industry, this might send a message to investors: get out of China now!

My colleagues on FT.com have put together a pretty graphic showing previous holders of the record for tallest towers. Almost all began construction at or near the peak of a bubble: Read more