Financial Times, el matutino financiero más influyente de Europa, destaca un análisis de Wolfgang Munchau titulado: “Un tsunami amenaza el boom inmobiliario español”.
A juicio de Munchau, España se encuentra en la situación de EE.UU. hace un año. Y los españoles, a su modo de ver, están amenazados por un tsunami-maremoto inmobiliario: una crisis brutal, semejante a la sufrida por el mercado norteamericano.
Munchau subraya una diferencia capital entre las crisis inmobiliarias norteamericana (bien real) y española (bien posible, a su modo de ver): “España tiene una de las tasas de productividad más bajas de la UE”. Y, cuando llegue, la crisis tendrá una gravedad social dura, ya que, desde su punto de vista, el resto de la economía española no tiene los recursos de la norteamericana para encajar la posible caída del sector inmobiliario. Munchau teme que, llegado el momento, España sufra una depresión grave, como la sufrida por Alemania tras una década de euforia inmobiliaria.
Financial Times, 19 marzo 2007, The tsunami threatening Spain’s property boom. By Wolfgang Munchau
Algunas frases significativas:
The bogus economic theory from Spain is that large immigration can maintain a construction boom indefinitely.
Let us just look at some statistics. In Spain, the construction and housing sector accounts for 18.5 per cent of gross domestic product, about twice as high as the eurozone average, according to the latest data from the EU’s Ameco database. The comparable figure for Germany is 8.7 per cent. The justifications given for this increase are: a net inflow of immigrants, many from Latin America, who find it easier to purchase, rather than rent Spanish property; changes in the Spanish way of life, as young people leave their parental homes earlier than they used to; and Spain’s continued popularity among sun-loving northern Europeans. In other words, the Spain-is-special-crowd argues this is a structural boom, not a bubble. They claim that Spain’s property market can grow at faster rates for longer than most other European markets.
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The trouble is that these merely tell us why the bubble happened in the first place, not why the path should be sustainable. In Spain, the average price of a square metre of residential property went up from about under €700 in 1997 to just under €2,000 ($2,700) at the end of last year – up threefold. House price growth has moderated more recently – from year-on-year growth of more than 15 per cent two years ago to more than 10 per cent now. It is true that Spain still has an extremely low level of mortgage defaults compared with the US. It is also true that Spanish mortgage banks are relatively flexible in terms of their willingness to refinance loans. Then again, Spain is in a different phase in the housing boom-bust cycle. Spain is today where the US was approximately a year ago.
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If, as a likely consequence of the subprime mortgage crisis in the US, there is a global reappraisal of the price of risk, Spain would be hit by a double whammy – higher rates and higher spreads.
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Now since 18.5 per cent of the Spanish economy is housing-related, a gradual convergence towards the eurozone average would seriously weigh on economic performance for a long period. Post-unification Germany experienced flat house prices for 15 years and a depression in the construction industry.
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Spain has one of the lowest rates of productivity growth in the EU. The rest of the economy may not be strong enough to fill the gap left open by construction. It does not take much imagination to see that a perfect storm is building up. The idea that Latin American immigrants will continue to jump on the property ladder under these circumstances and rescue the housing market is a little optimistic.