As the major central banks are slowly retreating from their policy of asset purchases, we will probably witness some of the side effects of this withdrawal.
Warren Buffett famously said that “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” The tide is going out only slowly, but we are beginning to see, at least in the UK, the damage the ultra loose monetary policy has done.
One of the main complaints of some of the “Leave” voters was that Britain is a “small island” and it is “full up.” Immigration “puts pressure” on local services such as hospitals and schools, but, most importantly, on local housing.
Even Prime Minister Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary, said immigration was putting pressure on the housing sector.
Intriguingly, however, it seems the kind of foreigner whom the UK government welcomes is the foreigner who buys homes but never lives in them – the foreign investor.
The Brexit vote must be manna from heaven for those seeking to hide their illicit gains in London. Busy with all their posturing and negotiations, politicians will have no time to curtail the criminals’ activities.
Many people hope that the UK Prime Minister’s rhetoric calling for a fairer society means she will address what is by far the biggest inequality in today’s Britain: the housing crisis. But a recent speech, in which she outlined her plan for Brexit, seems to indicate that she is unwilling to really tackle the issue.
Another trick to keep UK house prices rising is taking center stage: the extra-large mortgage. It’s the mortgage lasting half a lifetime, or more, which allows you to buy a home even if, under normal circumstances, you would not afford it.
The news that Wells Fargo, the US bank that is the world’s biggest lender by market value, targets millennials with its mortgage loans is seen as a sign that we’ve finally gotten over the crisis that nearly brought down the world economy in 2007-2009.
The Financial Times reported that the head of the bank’s home finance business said he was keen to lend more to first-time buyers, who, the paper said, have so far “put off settling down.”
But what is good for America is not necessarily good for the world. While in the US there has been some deleveraging and restructuring that allows the housing market to re-start from a cleaner basis, it is not the case in the rest of the world.