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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Next Bubble?

Robert Shiller says to watch out for farmland:

Bubble Spotting. by Robert J. Shiller, Commentary, Project Syndicate: People frequently ask me ... where the next big speculative bubble is likely to be. ...
I don’t know, though I have some hunches. ... [T]oday’s commodity-price boom ... has ... a “new era” story attached to it. Increasing worries about global warming, and its effects on food prices, or about the cold and snowy winter in the northern hemisphere and its effects on heating fuel prices, are contagious stories. They are even connected to the day’s top story, the revolutions in the Middle East, which, according to some accounts, were triggered by popular discontent over high food prices – and which could themselves trigger further increases in oil prices.
But my favorite dark-horse bubble candidate for the next decade or so is farmland... Of course, farmland is much less important than other speculative assets. For example, U.S. farmland had a total value of $1.9 trillion in 2010, compared with $16.5 trillion for the US stock market and $16.6 trillion for the US housing market. ...
But, farmland ... seems to have the most contagious “new era” story right now. ... And the highly contagious global-warming story paints a scenario of food shortages and shifts in land values in different parts of the world, which might boost investor interest further. ...
The housing-price boom of the 2000’s was ... eliminated with massive increases in supply. By contrast, there has been no increase in the supply of farmland, and the stories that would support a contagion of enthusiasm for it are in place, just as they were in the 1970’s in the US, when a similar food-price scare generated the century’s only farmland bubble.
Still, we must always bear in mind the difficulty of forecasting bubbles. ...

    Posted by on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 08:19 PM in Economics, Financial System | Permalink  Comments (22)


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