April 08, 2010

When spotting bubbles, make sure you look at the right one!

Sir Kenneth Rogoff writes “Spotting the tell-tale signs of bubbles approaching” April 8, but ignores the risk of looking at the wrong bubble. Take the so called real estate bubble in the US for example.

If the triple-A credit ratings on the securities collateralized with the subprime mortgages had been correctly awarded, then the increase in the prices of the houses would perhaps not have occurred or, if they did, those prices could have reflected a reality of supply and demand and not a bubble. This is so because the real bubble we had was a mega bubble of unjustified trust in the credit rating agencies; and which started when the bank regulators foolishly and trustingly outsourced the risk watching to these agencies to such an extent that they allowed the banks to hold only a meagre1.6 percent capital if the rating was a triple-A.