All I’ve heard recently in the financial media is that the housing bubble has finally burst. It’s really quite comical. First of all, there was never a housing bubble. Everyone just threw around the bubble term because we had experienced one in Internet stocks a few years back and it was easy to categorize a very strong housing market as a bubble.
It’s true that the housing market of the last five or six years was one of the strongest we have had in this country. The same can be said of the broad stock market from 1982 to 2000. We had the biggest equity bull market ever. However, it was not a bubble for all stocks, only one sector of the economy. Technology and telecom names fell by 90, 95, even 100 percent.
Outside of tech though, there was no bubble in stocks. The S&P 500 fell 50% when the “bubble burst” but the Nasdaq fell 80% and tech made up 30% of the index. As a result, half the S&P 500 loss was from tech stocks. Without the bubble, the market would have been down 25%. That classifies as a bear market, not a bubble.
Markets don’t experience bubbles every five or ten years. It’s a much rarer phenomenon than that. People are also calling the bull market in commodities as a bubble. It’s not. It’s a bull market. Markets are cyclical and when they rise they do so very quickly, but bull markets and bubbles are not synonymous terms.
So, yes, the housing market is very weak, but let’s stop saying how the bubble is bursting. The mean home price in the U.S. remaining flat or only rising 1 or 2 percent does not classify as a bubble bursting. Not even a 20% drop in housing prices on the coasts qualifies. That’s just a bear market, which is what typically follows a bull market. When housing prices in certain markets fall by 90% or more, then we can start calling it a bubble. Not going to happen.