New asset bubbles may be growing

World currencies

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: Think about this for just a second: At one point this morning, the yield on short-term Treasury bills was negative. Buyers were effectively paying the government to hold onto their money. Same thing happened last fall after Lehman Brothers collapsed, when super safe Treasury bills were about the only thing anybody trusted. This time, though, the cause seems to be extra money looking for a home.

Our senior business correspondent Bob Moon explains it is not just happening here and it is not just the bond market.


Song, "Tiny Bubbles: Tiny bubbles. Make me warm all over

Some economists are worried the world's central banks have created new asset bubbles by flooding the big financial institutions with cash. They fear the banks are back to their risky gambling habits in pursuit of the most attractive financial returns.

Ted Weisberg is a Wall Street broker who heads Seaport Securities. He's crossing his fingers it's not just wishful thinking that's been pumping up stock values.

Ted Weisberg: I don't know if that's fair value or not fair value, because stock markets tend to look forward, not backwards. And hopefully, part of this rally that we've seen is the stock market looking forward at an improving economy as we go forward.

The plentiful cash hasn't just been pumping up Wall Street. Bloomberg News reports today that several Asian countries are worried international investors might be artificially inflating their currencies.

Money manager Axel Merk says those countries need to do more to keep their economies under control. If they don't, recent history could repeat itself.

Axel Merk: The risk of a bubble bursting is the same as we had last year. When all asset classes move up in tandem, the risk is that when the bust happens, everything falls down, crashes in tandem. And that means there's no place to hide.

In Shanghai, real-estate speculators are still building skyscrapers, even in the face of a 50 percent vacancy rate. And William Gamble of Emerging Market Strategies says that should worry Americans.

William Gamble: They have a lot of our bonds. I mean, if they start selling massive amounts of Treasury to plug holes in their banking system, which they've done in the past, it could create an issue for us, especially now.

Critics say it shows central banks around the world need to start putting the brakes on.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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