Sweden’s property bubble is probably the world’s biggest, despite which it gets relatively little coverage in the mainstream financial media – although that might be about to change. Warnings about this bubble are not new. In March 2016, Moody’s issued a very explicit warning that Sweden’s negative interest rates were propagating an unsustainable housing bubble.
The central banks of Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden (all rated Aaa stable) have been among the first to push policy rates into negative territory. A year into this novel experience, Moody’s Investors Service concludes that, from among the three countries, Sweden is most at risk of an – ultimately unsustainable – asset bubble…
“The Riksbank has not been successful in engineering higher inflation, while Sweden’s GDP growth continues to be among the strongest in the advanced economies,” says Kathrin Muehlbronner, a Senior Vice President at Moody’s.
“At the same time, the unintended consequences of the ultra-loose monetary policy are becoming increasingly apparent – in the form of rapidly rising house prices and persistently strong growth in mortgage credit”, adds Ms Muehlbronner. In Moody’s view, these trends will likely continue as interest rates will remain low, raising the risk of a house price bubble, with potentially adverse effects on financial stability as and when house prices reverse trends.
In October 2016, the Riksbank’s Governor, Stefan Ingves, spoke in grave terms to the FT about the impact of negative rates on house prices.
But despite a lack of drama so far, Mr Ingves remains worried about a bad ending due to risks over financial stability.
He said: “It remains an issue because we are mismanaging our housing market. Our housing market isn’t under control, in my view.” The ratio of household debt to disposable income in Sweden is one of the highest in the world at more than 180 per cent and the Riksbank estimates it will continue to rise in the coming years.
Last month, we revisited Sweden’s housing bubble (see here) pointing out.
…nowhere would the bursting of Sweden’s unprecedented asset bubble be more concerning than in the country’s home prices.
And to get a sense of just how bad it could get, here is a chart from Nordea’s Andreas Wallstrom, showing nearly 140 years of real house prices in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, with an emphasis on the exponential surge in the past 2 decades. As Wallstromg sarcastically points out, the big irony in this is that …read more