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Opinion

Abigail with attitude: Bubbles and burning topics for 2014

I am a worried woman. I am starting to see bubbles everywhere, and it’s not easy to work out how to protect oneself. I am not alone. In mid-November, the cover of the respected Barron’s financial magazine had one word emblazoned on it: “Bubble?”

The Financial Times, around the same time, had a lengthy article examining London’s frothy property market: “The only thing Londoners can discuss is the rapidly inflating price of the houses they have bought or cannot afford to buy. To add to the air of insanity, there is talk of lights-out London. Rich foreigners are snapping up prime property for tens of millions of pounds... and then leaving them empty while they sail around in gigantic yachts... the housing bubble looks set to burst.” The granddaddy of stock markets, the US market, climbs ever higher into record territory: the Dow Jones Industrial Average touched 16,000 and the S&P500 hovered around 1,800.

Finally, there is the art market. At the November sale at Christie’s, collectors and dealers feasted on contemporary art works by modern masters such as Bacon, Rothko, de Kooning and Warhol. Christie’s achieved the highest-grossing auction ever and the star lot – Francis Bacon’s 1969 triptych ‘Three studies of Lucian Freud’, sold for $142 million, easily surpassing its $85 million pre-sale estimate. “Quantitative easing has inflated asset prices for the rich but left the real economy relatively untouched,” my mole murmured.

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