30 May 2006

Bears in the woods

The markets and the world economy | Bears in the woods | Economist.com: "IF YOU meet a bear in the woods, try not to panic or scream; on no account should you turn your back and run. As markets around the world have turned grizzly over the past two weeks, some investors seem to have forgotten the old hikers' maxim. After three years of big gains, many stockmarkets have tumbled by 10% or more in less than ten days. The loudest growls have echoed around emerging markets and commodities. Europe has surrendered most of this year's gains. Americans have so far escaped lightly, but they would be unwise to take comfort. Their housing market, the recent rock of their economy, is where a much grizzlier creature lies in wait.
Most investors tend to look first at equity markets—and they have certainly had a good run virtually everywhere. Yet a repeat of the slump after the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2001-02 remains highly unlikely. In 2000 shares were wildly overvalued. Today price/earnings ratios in most stockmarkets are near, if not below, their long-term averages. This suggests that the slide in shares could be short-lived."

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