Thursday, August 28, 2008


"Non-financial assets form the greater part of world wealth and have been more stable in value during periods of financial and social turbulence." Roger Ibbotson and Gary Brinson, "Global Investing"

The devolution of confidence in traditional investment alternatives, in concert with the elevation of the importance of design and aesthetic throughout the world, points to a renaissance in the value of art to a degree never before witnessed. After all, the art auction market is fair and transparent with a degree of stability that many financial institutions, and even some AAA-rated U.S. government debt, can only dream about.

The Inflation Problem
Economies around the world are experiencing slower growth. However, the imported inflation in those countries where the currency is tied to the U.S. dollar has eliminated central banks' option of reducing interest rates in order to generate growth. Growth has been further stymied by those countries' losses from their dollar-denominated assets. Of all the maladies around the globe however, it is dollar-driven food price inflation which poses the gravest danger to the sustainability of the dollar peg. To reduce inflation, Thailand and the Philippine central bank increased intereste rates this week. South Korea has been selling dollars in an effort to revalue the Won. To address inflation, the Indian central government recently decided took steps allowing the rupee to rise in value against the dollar, sparking a rally in the stock market. For example, Pakistan experienced riots at its stock exchanges as a result of continued movements downward, on top of rapidly rising commodity price inflation. A recent survey there highlighted the fact that 71% of respondents see inflation as a problem. This situation has been pointing many decision-makers toward the necessity of de-coupling from the dollar, revaluing their currencies higher, accelerating the movement away from U.S. investment vehicles, including the AAA variety, and hence, the vulnerable position that the dollar now finds itself in.

Bank Failures.
It doesn't end at IndyMac, the U.S.' third largest bank failure ever. Bank regulators, due to their increased expectations for greater numbers of bank failures, has for months been bringing bank examiners out of retirement in order to handle the anticipated workout workload. Many more banks are expected to fail.Interestingly, IndyMac wasn't even on the regulators' watch list when it failed, indicating that other banks are almost certainly as vulnerable. In its call upon depositor insurance to consumers, IndyMac alone will exhaust 10% of the FDIC's total warchest.
Not all things with high prices are in a bubble/Art Market will not implode.

The most well-known of the art indexes was developed by economists from NYU's Stern School of Business Jianping Mei, and Michael Moses. The Mei/Moses Fine Art index exist for seven different categories of art including Old Masters, 19th century, Impressionist, Modern, postwar and contemporary, and American before 1950. It is based on repeat sales of paintings, sculpture, ect. and captures almost 95% of all auction data. The index indicates that art had a compound annual growth rate of 12.05% between 1953 and 2003 versus 11.65% for the S&P500 index, with reinvested dividends.

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