Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dubai's Economic Crisis A Cautionary Tale Comes True

As the United Arab Emirates celebrates its 38-year Anniversary of Independence from Britain this week, a dark cloud of uncertainty casts a shadow of fear over the festivities. The source of the fog: the November 25, 2009 event known as "the Dubai World Debacle."
In short: Dubai's largest government owned conglomerate requested a six-month "hold" on payments in order to restructure its estimated $60-$80 billion of liabilities. In the words of one news source: "Dubai, once the poster child of the economic boom... is now the epitome of recessionary bust.... The recent events are a wake-up call" that Dubai's property growth, its man-made islands shaped as palm trees and Arabic poems, its soaring infrastructure -- ALL of it was built "on the sand of debt." (Associated Press)
And, it's sinking faster by the day. Dubai's main stock market stands 60% below its 2006 peak, while the pillar of the region's economic growth -- property -- is crumbling under a wave of defaults and fear. On this, the following statistics say plenty:
  • Real estate prices have plunged 50% so far in 2009, with expectations for further declines of 20-30% by the year's end.
  • At the end of the third-quarter '09, office space prices plunged 58% from year ago levels.
  • Office occupancy rates in recently finished buildings stands at 41%.
  • And, an estimated 400 real estate projects, valued at $300 billion, have been frozen due to ongoing debt insecurities.
Fact is, when the world's tallest skyscraper, the famed Burj Dubai opens its doors on January 4, it will do so amidst the worst real estate slump in Dubai's history, record low occupancy levels, abandoned construction sites, and unstable market conditions.
For many, the shock has only just set in. As one November 28 Reuters observes: With the "Dubai World bombshell" and series of unfortunate economic events in Dubai, the "Black Swan has come waddling out of the desert."
The definition of "black swan" is a rare and unexpected event.
In truth, Dubai's financial woes are neither rare nor unexpected.
( First Comes Dubai, And then Comes... Stay one step ahead of the major turns in the world's leading economies. Subscribe, absolutely risk-free, to the Financial Forecast Servicetoday.)
Fact is, the warning signs of trouble emerged in Dubai long before the current wave of "sovereign default problems." How long ago did they first appear? 2008? 2007? Try 2006, at the height of the mainstream's infatuation with this economic marvel of the Middle East, this "Jewel of Arabia" where the altitude of economic ambition had reached unprecedented heights -- literally.
Here, the April 2006 Elliott Wave Financial Forecast presented a special report on the Arab state titled "A Bull Market Goodbye From Dubai." In it, our analysts revealed why the half-mile-high construction of Burj Dubai sent a towering "sell signal" for the regions markets and wrote:
"How big is this peak? The closest precedent is what happened in the late 1920s in the United States. The Jazz Age was in full swing and American's experienced an unprecedented level of prosperity with no apparent end in sight. Three landmark buildings were erected on the New York skyline: the Chrysler Building, the Empire State, and the Manhattan Company. All three buildings were conceived in the bull market and built through the peak, only to open for business amidst the worst market for office space for decades.
The great race to be the worlds tallest is the building frenzy Edward R. Dewey used to identify the 'Skyscraper Indicator' back in the 1940s." A new world's tallest building is invariably occupied only in the aftermath of the bull market that gave rise to its creation."

Elliott Wave Financial Forecast then presented the following close-up of TWO more recent "Skyscraper" tip-offs [Malaysia's Petronas Towers and Taiwan's Taipei 101] and wrote: "Everything points to a similar fate in Dubai."

That Burj Dubai would "open its doors in the aftermath of the bull market that gave rise to its creation" -- is a testament to the power of cultural indicators and objective treatment of historical Elliott wave patterns.

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