This time is different.
That’s what people argue every time a bubble inflates, and what they think every time they are chastened by its popping. But century after century, decade after decade and year after year, human beings irrationally exuberate all over again.
Not long ago, the housing bubble burst and brought the global economy to a standstill. Now economists, recognizing that bubbles tend to come in bunches, are on the lookout for the next market to fizzle. They say that governments, central banks and international bodies should scrutinize a few markets that look likely to froth over in the next few years, like capital markets in China, commodities like gold and oil, and government bonds in heavily indebted countries like the United States.
“Globally, a lot of money is now seeking higher returns once again,” said Rachel Ziemba, senior analyst at RGE Monitor. The steadying of the economy, liquidity injections by governments and big returns reaped early this year by investment banks are encouraging more traders to dip their toes back in the water in search of the next big thing.“As long as compensation and bonuses are based on short-term performance in the market,” she said, “that’s going to encourage risk-seeking behavior.”
Bubbles are episodes of collective human madness — euphoria over investments whose skyrocketing values are unsustainable.
They tend to arise from perceptions of pending shortages (as happened last year, with the oil bubble); from glamorized new technologies or investment frontiers (like the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, the radio bubble of the 1920s or the multiple railroad bubbles of the 19th century); or from faddish cultural obsessions (like the Dutch tulip bubble of the 17th century, or the more recent Beanie Babies bubble).
The New York Times