China's 'Ghost Cities' Warn of Property Bubble: Chanos
Avoid investments that rely on the Chinese real estate market because the bubble there is getting "bigger, and bigger, and bigger," hedge fund manager Jim Chanos told CNBC on Thursday.
"Anything that's depending on the Chinese economic miracle I would be careful of," Chanos said in a "Squawk Box" interview.
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The founder of Kynikos Associates, said it was "somewhat controversial" when he started to warn about real estate in China three years ago. But he added, "[the] property bubble is visual. You can't miss it [now]."
He was referring to the growing problem of so-called "ghost cities" there, which were the subject of a "60 Minutes" investigation this past weekend.
Correspondent Lesley Stahl reported, "We discovered that the most populated nation on Earth is building houses, districts and cities with no one in them … desolate condos and vacant subdivisions uninhabited for miles and miles and miles and miles."
That's because construction accounts for about half of China's $8 trillion economy, Chanos estimated and pointed out that while gross domestic product there slowed to a still fairly robust growth rate of 7.8 percent last year, "corporate profitability there imploded."
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He argued, "It's the nature of the [economic] growth. If it's all sticking a shovel in the ground, you get whatever you want."
"But at the end of the day, what's sustainable?" he asked. "Because, as I keep pointing out, every time you finish a building [there], under this model, you have to put up another one."
Comparing the potential Chinese real estate bubble to the one that burst in the U.S. in 2008, Chanos said, "Unlike our buyers who walked away and left it to the banking system and the Fed to sort of bailout. These people are going to lose their life savings. And that could be a big issue in China."
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He said he analyzed Chinese government figures and concluded that China is on pace to develop about twice as much in the coming years as it had built in the past three.
"Avoid anything having to do with the Chinese property market — steel, cement, iron ore," he advised investors, saying that he's been shorting these sort of plays.