Investment Analysis Home Investment Analysis World's housing markets improve strongly May 26, 2010 The global housing bust is effectively over. According to the Global Property Guide's latest survey of official house price statistics, 19 out of 36 countries experienced house price increases during the year to end-Q1 2010. Furthermore, out of 15 countries with house price falls, eight saw slower rates of decline in the year to end-Q1 2010 compared to the previous year. Countries in severe crisis that show no sign of recovery now include only Ireland, Bulgaria and, for political reasons, Thailand. The Global Property Guide's statistical presentation uses price-changes after inflation, giving a more realistic picture than the more upbeat nominal figures usually preferred by real estate agents. Source: Various series, data descriptions and sources here Robust recoveries in Europe Many European countries have continued to recover strongly. Leading the pack is Finland, where house prices rose 11.03% during the year to end-Q1 2010. Being an export-oriented country, Finland was badly hit by the global financial crisis in 2008. This March, central bank governor Erkki Liikanen announced that the economy had stopped contracting. House prices are expected to rally further during the rest of 2010. Norway's housing market has rebounded since Q3 2009. House prices went up by 7.65% year-on-year to end-Q1 2010, thanks to a massive stimulus package and low interest rates. However, on May 6, the Norges Bank raised its key policy rate by 0.25 percentage points to 2%. Luxembourg has recovered ahead of other European countries, with house prices picking up as early as Q2 2009. In Q1 2010, house prices were up by 6.63% (after inflation) compared to the same period last year. Low interest rates fuelled the recovery. In the United Kingdom, Nationwide's data shows house prices up by 5.43% compared to the same period last year. London's increase of 15.7% was the most outstanding. France and Germany had modest increases of less than 0.5% year-on-year to Q1 2010. This is the second year-on-year increase in house prices in France and the first in Germany. (All figures are after inflation.) Source: Various series, data descriptions and sources here Signs of bottoming out in Europe's weakest markets House prices have fallen strongly in hard-hit Spain, Iceland and Lithuania, though the rates of decline have been slower during the year to end-Q1 2010 than during the previous year. During this period, Spanish house prices declined by 5.73%, less than last year's decline of 7.24%. In Iceland, house prices were down by 13.98% during the year to end-Q1 2010, an improvement from the drop of 20.47% during the same period last year. Iceland has experienced high inflation, explaining the considerable discrepancy between nominal and real house price rise figures. In Lithuania, house prices fell by 22.22% during the year to end-Q1 2010, a modest improvement from the drop of 26.92% experienced during the same period last year. Latvia saw the steepest drop among all countries in the survey. However, there is renewed optimism in the market. The year-on-year price falls of 31.72%, though dramatic, are an improvement on last year's price drop of 43.07%. Equally important, during the latest quarter house prices were up 10.70%, signaling that the bottom has been reached - and that recovery is on the way. North America remains weak House prices in the US were still declining in Q1 2010. The Case-Shiller index showed a modest drop of 0.23% over the year to end-Q1 2010 (inflation-adjusted), a significant improvement from the fall of 18.68% during the same period last year. House prices were down by 1.68% in Q1 2010 compared to Q4 2009. The FHFA's purchase-only index (seasonally adjusted and inflation-adjusted) showed a steeper fall of 5.30% year-on-year to end-Q1 2010. House prices declined by 2.29% in Q1 2010 according to FHFA, compared to the previous quarter. Canadian house prices stopped falling in July 2009, though there was a modest house price fall of 0.71% during the year to end-Q1 2010. The UAE recovers House prices in Dubai were up 1.29% (in nominal terms) over the year to end-Q1 2010, after falling by 34% (also in nominal terms) over the year to end-Q1 2009. House prices were higher by 3.48% in nominal terms and 4% in real terms in Q1 2010 compared to prices in Q4 2009. A possible housing bubble in Asia A bubble is feared to be forming in Asia, after massive recoveries in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. Hong Kong recorded the highest house price increase among all countries surveyed at 27.15% (after inflation) during the year to end-Q1 2010. This is a remarkable performance, considering that during the same period a year ago Hong Kong suffered a painful year-on-year drop of 15%. Fuelled by the government's stimulus measures and interest rate cuts, prices started to pick up in Q3 2009, with a moderate year-on-year increase of 4%. In Q4 2009, everybody was caught by surprise when house prices skyrocketed by 22% y-o-y. Analysts have expressed concern, and there is a lot of very un-Hong Kong-like outrage at ‘speculators'. The same concerns affect Singapore. After being badly hit by the financial crisis, Singapore's house prices increased by 23.88% year-on-year to end-Q1 2010, in substantial contrast to the 22.70% price falls during the same period last year. Taiwan's house prices rose 18.46% year-on-year to Q1 2010, the highest increase ever recorded in the country. The upsurge was caused by an influx of buyers from mainland China, after financial cooperation agreements were signed between China and Taiwan. Indonesia and Thailand have been performing poorly. House prices in 14 largest Indonesian cities dropped 1.08% over the year to end-Q1 2010. Political instability was responsible for Thailand's downturn. House prices fell 19.96% over the year to end-Q1 2010, the sharpest drop since the Thai time-series began in 1992 (all figures are after inflation).