How to Identify a Classic Bubble


One of the most ironic and fascinating characteristics about an asset bubble is that central banks claim they can’t recognize one until after it bursts. And Wall Street apologists tend to ignore the manifestation of bubbles because the profit stream is just too difficult to surrender.

The excuses for piling money into a particular asset class and sending prices several standard deviations above normal are made to seem rational at the time: Housing prices have never gone down on a national basis and people have to live somewhere, the internet will replace all brick and mortar stores, and perhaps the classic example is that variegated tulips are so rare they should be treated like gold.

I am willing to let the Dutch off the hook; back in the seventeenth century asset bubbles were virtually nonexistent because money was still in specie. But central banks have created the perfect petri dish for asset bubbles over the past three decades. Therefore, it’s imperative for investors to understand the classic warning signs of a bubble so you can avoid the inevitable carnage in the wake of its collapse.

As I identified in my book “The Coming Bond Market Collapse”, there are three classic metrics to determine when an asset has grown into a bubble: it becomes extremely over supplied, over owned and overpriced compared to historical norms.

The real estate market circa 2005 was a great example of a classic bubble. The supply of new homes boomed as new home construction rates peaked around 2 million units per annum in the middle of the last decade. That’s about 400k units higher than what would be considered the historical average.
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