The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles in 2018
With the current stock market bull run reaching nearly 10 years in length, it’s understandable that many investors are nervous about the end of the party coming sooner than later.
However, as UBS notes in its latest report, there is also growing concern about another prominent bubble that’s been in the works since the aftermath of the financial crisis.
Large amounts of easy money have fueled real estate bubbles in the world’s major cities – and the Swiss investment bank now sees the property markets in six global cities as being at risk.
The Bubble Index
In the 2018 edition of the bank’s Real Estate Bubble Index, here are the major cities around the globe that are in or near bubble territory:
Any city with a score over 1.5 is considered at “Bubble Risk”, and right now those include two cities from Canada, one from Asia, and three from Europe.
Hong Kong (2.03) tops the index this year, leaping past Munich (1.99), Toronto (1.95), and Vancouver (1.92) which all remain at bubble risk themselves. Amsterdam and London are the two other cities that score higher than a 1.5 on the rankings.
It’s also very important to note that there are four cities that score just under the 1.5 threshold: Stockholm (1.45), Paris (1.44), San Francisco (1.44), and Frankfurt (1.43).
A Coming Correction?
Investor and writer Howard Marks has noted in recent months that the wider market is in its “8th inning”, and the same case could be made for real estate.
Historically, investors have had to be alert to rising interest rates, which have served as the main trigger of corrections.
– UBS Report
According to UBS, the cracks are already starting to show at the top end of the market, with housing prices declining in half of last year’s list of bubble cities. Some of the worrying factors include rising interest rates, as well as growing political tensions as the crisis of affordability makes it harder for average people to live in these global financial centers.
Here is annualized growth in percent over the last year, as well for the last five years for cities in the index:
As you can see, some of these cities have had negative growth over the last 12 months, including New York, Toronto, Sydney, London, and Stockholm.
Charting Specific Markets
In Hong Kong, you need to work 22 years to afford a 645 sq. ft (60m²) apartment, when that took just 12 years just a decade ago. In recent years, Hong Kong’s ascent to becoming one of the biggest real estate bubbles has become very evident, especially when juxtaposed with Singapore:
In Canada, the two cities in the index are starting to go in alternate directions, although recent signs also point to a potential slowdown in Vancouver:
Finally, the U.S. market – which felt the pain of the housing crash in the late 2000s – is home to zero cities in the bubble risk category, according to UBS.
Whether it is a bubble or not, many people agree that San Francisco’s housing situation is still a crisis. In the Bay Area hub, 60% of all rental units are in rental-controlled buildings, and the median single-family house price is a hefty $1.7 million.
The 20 Biggest Bankruptcies in U.S. History
There is always risk in business – but for these 20 companies, which caused the biggest bankruptcies in history, those risks didn’t quite pan out.
Doing business means taking calculated risks.
Regardless of whether you are opening a lemonade stand or you’re a leading executive at a Fortune 500 company, risk is an inevitable part of the game.
Taking bigger risks can generate proportional rewards – and sometimes, such as for the companies you’ll read about below, the risk-taking backfired to queue up some of the biggest bankruptcies in U.S. history.
Going For Broke
Today’s infographic comes to us from TitleMax, and it highlights the 20 biggest bankruptcies in the country’s history.
Companies below are sorted by total assets at the time of bankruptcy.
There are times when companies are forced to push in all of their chips to make a game-changing bet. Sometimes this pans out, and sometimes the plan fails miserably.
In other situations, companies were actually unaware they were “all-in”. Instead, the potentially destructive nature of the risk was not even on the radar, only to be later triggered through a global crisis or unanticipated “Black Swan” events.
The Biggest Bankruptcies in the U.S.
Here are the 20 biggest bankruptcies in U.S. history, and what triggered them:
|Rank||Company||Year||Assets at Bankruptcy||Downfall|
|#1||Lehman Brothers||2008||$691 billion||2008 financial crisis|
|#2||Washington Mutual||2008||$328 billion||2008 financial crisis|
|#3||Worldcom Inc.||2002||$104 billion||Accounting scandal|
|#4||GM||2009||$82 billion||Massive debt|
|#5||CIT Group||2009||$71 billion||Credit crunch|
|#6||Pacific Gas & Electric||2019||$71 billion||Wildfires|
|#8||Conseco||2002||$61 billion||Failed acquisition strategy|
|#9||MF Global||2011||$41 billion||European sovereign bonds|
|#10||Chrysler||2009||$39 billion||Massive debt|
|#11||Thornburg Mortgage||2009||$37 billion||Declining mortgage values|
|#12||Pacific Gas & Electric||2001||$36 billion||Drought|
|#13||Texaco||1987||$35 billion||Contract dispute|
|#14||FCOA||1988||$34 billion||Savings and loan crisis|
|#15||Refco||2005||$33 billion||Accounting fraud|
|#16||IndyMac Bancorp||2008||$33 billion||Mortgage market collapse|
|#17||Global Crossing||2002||$30 billion||Plummeting world economy|
|#18||Bank of New England||1991||$30 billion||Bad loans|
|#19||General Growth Properties||2009||$30 billion||Failed acquisition strategy|
|#20||Lyondell Chemical||2009||$27 billion||Decline in demand|
The data set on the biggest bankruptcies is organized by assets at time of bankruptcy. Therefore, they are not in inflation-adjusted terms, meaning the list skews towards more recent events.
This makes the impact of the 2008 financial crisis particularly easy to spot.
The events and consequences relating to the crisis (loan defaults, illiquidity, and declining asset values) were enough to take down banks like Lehman Brothers and WaMu. The after effects – including a slumping global economy – led to a second wave of bankruptcies for companies such as GM and Chrysler.
In total, nine of the 20 biggest bankruptcies on the list occurred in the 2008-2009 span.
A Dubious Distinction
You may also notice that one company was on the list twice, and this was not an accident.
Pacific Gas & Electric, a California company that is the nation’s largest utility provider, has the dubious distinction of going bankrupt twice in the last 20 years. The first time, in 2001, resulted from a drought that limited hydro electricity generation, forcing the company to import electricity from outside sources at exorbitant prices.
The more recent instance happened earlier this year. Facing tens of billions of dollars in liabilities from raging wildfires in California, the utility filed for Chapter 11 protection yet another time.
A Visual History of the Largest Companies by Market Cap (1999-Today)
See how the world’s largest companies have changed over time, and how this helps tell a broader story about what the market is thinking.
A Visual History of the Largest Companies by Market Cap
The macro narrative that underlies the market is constantly under revision.
While this is partially a function of shifts in investor sentiment, it’s also driven by game-changing events as well as much more structural market forces.
For example, how does the macro narrative change after a commodity price crash? What about when the unprecedented scale of technology is truly understood by the market?
An Evolving Narrative
In this week’s chart, we look at how the big picture narrative has changed over time by using a very simple approach.
We have visualized the market capitalizations of the 10 largest public companies in the world over five-year intervals from 1999 until today, and it gives us a series of snapshots of what the market was “thinking” during these specific periods.
Not only is it evident as certain industries rise to prominence, but there are also some interesting individual stories to follow. We can see iconic companies – such as Apple – ascend into the public consciousness, while others fall off the radar completely.
|Year||Description||Top Company||Who Dominates Top 10?|
|1999||Dotcom Bubble||Microsoft ($583B)||Five tech companies in the mix|
|2004||Post-Bubble||GE ($319B)||Diverse mix of companies by industry|
|2009||Financial Crisis||PetroChina ($367B)||Six non-U.S. companies make list|
|2014||$100 Oil||Apple ($560B)||Last year for oil companies, tech starts ascending|
|2019||Big Tech Era||Microsoft ($1,050B)||Seven companies are tech|
The composition of the top 10 changes in each of the snapshots above, and this simple approach helps capture the market narrative for each timeframe.
During the Dotcom Bubble, you can see that half of the list was dominated by tech companies. This was short-lived, and the years 2004, 2009, and 2014 have much more diverse lists.
You can also see the impact of the financial crisis on U.S. company valuations. In 2009, there is an equal distribution of Chinese and American companies. Royal Dutch Shell (UK/Netherlands) and Petrobras (Brazil) help round out the top 10.
Finally, over the last five years, you can see the impact of lower oil prices and the growing scale of tech. Back in 2014, Exxon Mobil was the second largest company in the world by a solid margin, but today it’s been displaced by companies like Facebook, Amazon, Tencent, and Alibaba.
The Big Tech Era
Here is the current top 10 list of the world’s largest companies by market cap:
|#1||🇺🇸 Microsoft||Tech||$1,050 billion|
|#2||🇺🇸 Amazon||Tech||$943 billion|
|#3||🇺🇸 Apple||Tech||$920 billion|
|#4||🇺🇸 Alphabet||Tech||$778 billion|
|#6||🇺🇸 Berkshire Hathaway||Diversified||$507 billion|
|#7||🇨🇳 Alibaba||Tech||$435 billion|
|#8||🇨🇳 Tencent||Tech||$431 billion|
|#9||🇺🇸 Visa||Financial||$379 billion|
|#10||🇺🇸 Johnson & Johnson||Consumer Goods||$376 billion|
In total, the five biggest tech giants brought in a combined $801.5 billion in revenue last year, and $139 billion in net income.
The Staying Power of Microsoft
With a valuation today of just over $1 trillion, Microsoft is again the world’s largest company by market capitalization.
In this way, the above lists come full circle, since Microsoft was also the biggest company in 1999.
While the software giant experienced short periods where it did drop out of favor, Microsoft was the only company to make the list in our five snapshots above.
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