Chinese Real Estate Crash

Many who follow the real estate market on the mainland would not be surprised to see a Chinese real estate crash. Although some still think of China as an unstoppable juggernaut, the nation has its share of problems. For example the large number of IPO’s of Chinese stocks last year were mostly unsuccessful. The US Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into the limited transparency of and poor data available for many Chinese stocks. A likely recession in Europe could not only create problems such as a run on French banks but would certainly reduce exports from China as well. Both the EU and United States are printing money in order to avoid a depression. Cheaper dollars and Euros will make European and North American products more competitive and Yuan denominated products harder to sell. Then there is the issue of skyscrapers and a possible Chinese real estate crash.

Building booms often precede bad economic times. The “see throughs” in Atlanta and Houston years ago were silent testimony to the hubris of overbuilding during times of loose credit and excessive optimism. (A “see through” is a skyscraper that is largely unoccupied. At sunrise and sunset one can “see through” the many empty floors.) China is said to have over half of the skyscrapers in the world in construction with more on the drawing boards. Even for a large and growing economy that is a lot, especially when financing may be questionable. Property developers in general are pessimistic while construction firms express optimism. One group might be expecting a Chinese real estate crash while the other does not. However, when a construction company finishes the job it gets paid and moves on. It is the developers and investors who suffer when the real estate market crashes. At such times predicting Forex trends can be profitable.

There are three more issues that relate to the danger of a Chinese real estate crash. One is that in an effort to stimulate the economy the Chinese government has built many public projects with hundreds of billions of dollars creating their own artificial boom. The second is the nature of financing in China. Similar to Japan before the bust two decades ago, China has all too many “off the books” loans or at least loans that are not apparent to the general investor. If things go bad they could do so in a hurry with shaky financing. The third aspect is that the Chinese real estate market is already heading down hill. Residential property sales are down substantially in major Chinese cities and sellers are dropping prices in order to get out before things get worse. As the China current account surplus falls so might property values throughout China.

So, what would a Chinese real estate crash mean to the average Forex trader? The global economy is interconnected. Problems in Europe lead to problems in China and problems in the USA lead to problems virtually anywhere in the world. The coming year could be one of extreme volatility of foreign currency rates. The general consensus is that the Euro will fall due to a recession in Europe or a recession avoided by printing money. The seemingly impervious Chinese Yuan could fall as well, or at least level off due to decreased exports. It could get worse if the scenario of a Chinese real estate crash turns out to be the case. Then there is the issue of social and political unrest. The Arab world is not the only place where people have grown tired of heavy handed autocracies. People often put up with bad government when they can put food on the table and rise up when the economy turns bad.