US investment giant says buy NZ land

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 12:24 01/02/2013

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A comment by the head of a global bond fund about buying land in New Zealand should be taken with a pinch of salt, economists say.

Bill Gross, founder of US-based Pimco, wrote in his monthly column that credit markets were increasingly losing their ability to create economic growth.

"The countdown begins when investable assets pose too much risk for too little return; when lenders desert credit markets for other alternatives such as cash or real assets.

"One of our investment committee members swears he would buy land in New Zealand and set sail," he wrote.

However, he added: "Most of us can't do that, nor can you," advising investors to get used to slower growth and shift to global equities with lower but stable returns.

Most commentators agreed Gross' reference as New Zealand land as a safe haven was probably on the flippant side.

But if investors took his words to heart, the strength of the Kiwi dollar meant they were no longer getting a bargain.

"From the US, given where the cross is at the moment, New Zealand land would be very expensive," said ANZ senior economist Mark Smith.

It was also impossible to think of New Zealand in isolation from the international economy, said NZ Institute of Economic Research chief economist Shamubeel Eaqub.

"Certainly the price of farm land moves more or less in sync with commodity prices, which depend on global growth.

"I am sure it's a bit tongue in cheek. But his point may more be along the lines of at least you will have a lovely farm in a beautiful country. You can grow your own food and you can still live comfortably.''

Looking at Gross' comments more generally, Eaqub said they were largely correct but a little gloomy.

He favoured the "this time is different" theory put forward by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff.

"It shows that credit crises happen with regularity. They are painful when they do. For New Zealand for example it may mean going from 3 per cent growth a year to 2 per cent growth a year, with a painful recession in the middle."

This did not mean the world economy would collapse, he said.

"The perception of wealth may have been inflated by excessive borrowing and animal spirits, but real stock of human capital and ingenuity - the trading of which money facilitates for things we really want in life...surely hasn't changed that much."

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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