As the world struggles in the throes of a credit crisis, it seems appropriate to recount some (un)forgettable meltdowns of the twentieth century, the economics behind them and the panic that they created. Each of these major crises had features that have parallels in the current one. Yet, history repeats itself. Could investors have drawn a lesson or two from each of these and been more prudent? Read on.
The Japanese property bubble
The fall in property prices and defaults by sub-prime borrowers flagged off the now famous credit crisis. Will this crisis tip the world into recession? Let us hark back to the Japanese property bubble in the early 1980s.
At that time, Japan had huge trade surpluses (excess of exports over imports) with the US. Alarmed at its unfavourable Balance of Trade position, the US, through the Plaza Accord of 1985, allowed the yen to appreciate against the dollar. In two years’ time, the yen was up by almost 50 per cent.
The country’s export-dependent economy stumbled. Capital investments slowed. To avoid a recession, Japan eased restrictions on borrowings and progressively lowered interest rates. But low inflation (due to cheap imports and the fall in international oil prices), coupled with cheap money, enabled cash-flows into the property and stock markets as well.
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