Sand Spring Advisors LLC
Cranes Across London
September 20, 2002
by, Barclay T. Leib
Look out any window in the City of London and all that you will see are construction cranes. From one Aldemanbury Square perch the other day, I counted 30 building cranes across just a third of the immediate horizon. It's all, of course, unneeded new office space -- with "To Let" signs already far too prevalent in London's business district. The most analogous type situation to the way this appears might be the Tokyo real estate market circa 1992 -- a market that was poised for a dive that persists even today.
U.S. home builder Toll Brothers has nothing to do with London, of course, but the rhythm of this home-builder's chart is also becoming clearer. The home buying-building bubble is slowly bursting, and with time, we believe $12.37 beckons here.
London holds other anecdotal clues to a changing world with an increased presence of government. A new traffic-flow design for Trafalger Square has presently left cars, buses, and taxis stacked up in all directions on a daily basis in complete and utter gridlock. Meanwhile, the new mayor of London has plans to soon impose a new 10-pound surcharge on every private vehicle that enters the center of London. The charges will come by mail after cameras mounted at key road crossings click away at license plates.
Via the current Trafalger Square road blockage, perhaps the mayor first wants to create chaos so that people view the 10-pound surcharge (and the lessening of traffic that it would of course bring) as a welcome relief.
All we can think of from these observations is that the days of Orsen Welle's "Big Brother" clearly draw closer -- particularly as we see New York City still requiring 2 people per car to enter the Holland Tunnel between 6am and 10am -- a full year after the World Trade Center was blown up. The authorities have simply used the events of 9-11 to impose and maintain new traffic restrictions that they always wanted to impose anyway, but never quite had the guts to try without some excuse.
Somehow this whole new era of government seems ever so sad. And if the London skyline holds any anecdotal and contrarian clues, both commercial and residential real estate around the world must be due for a substantive fall.
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