Espanya, líder mundial en ciment per capita

Un amic m’ha enviat un article del WSJ [1] signat per Keith Johnson: «Spain’s Housing Boom Faces a Test». Copiaferro algunes frases:

For much of the past decade, Spain’s housing boom seemed to have only an upside. Housing prices have more than doubled since 1997. Nearly four million new homes have been built since then as young Spaniards riding a wave of rising employment bought their first houses and older Spaniards poured their savings into real estate.

The boom has had a trickle-down effect that spread to just about every corner of the economy, which has been expanding on average 3.2% a year since 1995. Since 2000, the year the boom kicked into high gear, 20% of the four million new jobs created in Spain have been in construction. It is one of Spain’s largest industries, accounting for more than 10% of the country’s economic output.


Construction companies such as Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA saw their fortunes swell as Spain became the biggest per-capita consumer of cement in the world. Homeowners, feeling richer, sparked a rise in consumer spending, which in turn kept economic growth at among the highest levels in Europe.


Despite millions of empty homes, construction activity appears to be picking up. Spain has been building more houses than France, Britain and Germany combined for the past five years straight. In the first half, housing starts accelerated to 15%. Spain, with 44 million inhabitants, is on track to build 760,000 new homes this year, nearly half as many as the U.S., which has a population that is seven times as large.


Many economists are worried the unchecked home building means supply is outstripping demand, raising the likelihood of a sharp price correction. In a hard landing, says a report by Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, house prices could start falling by the end of next year and drop as much as 15% by 2009.

That could sideswipe Spain’s economy as a whole. Local governments rely on taxes and building permits for revenue. The country has been able to absorb more immigrants than other countries in the European Union in the past decade in large part because the construction sector kept creating jobs and houses. “Spain is more vulnerable to the knock-on effects” of a sudden real-estate drop than other more-diversified economies, says José Luis Escriva, head of research at BBVA.

The biggest worry is consumer spending, which makes up 60% of the Spanish economy. Spanish homeowners doubled their debt levels — to 120% of income — during the boom. With 98% of mortgages variable-rate, each uptick in interest rates hurts disposable income. The latest rate increase by the European Central Bank raised average monthly mortgage payments in Spain by ⿬115 ($146), for example. The average national salary is about ⿬1,200 a month.

Many economists say a soft landing is possible. Housing demand is propped up by immigration, and foreign buyers of vacation homes are still coming, though less often than before. Interest rates are low enough in real terms that households can meet mortgage payments.

I tot seguit veig això altre al menéame.

[1] No és públic, cal subscripció o que un subscriptor l’enviï per correu, que és com m’ha arribat.


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