Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A New Gilded Age

These two items from The Wall Street Journal's China Real Time blog are not surprising news -- but the implications are dire.
China to Overtake Japan in Luxury Demand

China's consumers are pushing the nation to the top once again.

It will overtake Japan this year to be the country with the biggest appetite for luxury goods, HSBC predicts in a research report issued late last week. The broker said that it expects China’s consumers to keep spending, even if their affluent counterparts in the West stop.

The reasons are, at least in part, cultural. "Displaying wealth has become a trend in China, and we think this will continue to translate into growing purchases of luxury goods for oneself, or as gifts," HSBC said. "We think consumer habits may not necessarily always correspond to income levels due to the need to socially fit in and show off wealth." (

Chinese Bidder Goes Over $500,000 to Nab Chateau Lafite Lot

Bundled into a single lot, 300 bottles of Château Lafite-Rothschild sold over the weekend for $539,280 to an anonymous Chinese phone bidder at a Christie's auction in Hong Kong, making it the most expensive single lot this year and boding well for a slew of autumn sales in the city.

While normal lots in top-tier wine auctions are typically made up of around a case, Lot 44 comprised 25 cases of Lafite from every year between 1981 and 2005, averaging around $1,800 a bottle. The entire two-day sale raised $7.6 million, with Burgundy's Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Moët & Chandon champagne from 1911, and Bordeaux’s ultra-rare 1982 Le Pin making up other top slots.

"It was an extraordinary Lafite collection, and the seller actually trades wine for a living," said Christie's Charles Curtis, head of wine for Asia, who estimated the vendor received a 20% premium by selling it as a multi-year collection, or vertical. "We had several bidders, and they were all from China, and they are just getting into wine." (

Staggering poverty in over half of China's 1.3 billion; thousands of buildings standing empty; trillions of paper yuan chasing after any asset.

I know I am stupid in the short run but in the long run this will all end very badly.

(No, no you silly longtime Tokyo resident. The Chinese government's technocrats have studied the Japan and U.S. experiments and will avoid the mistakes made there.)


Chris ( said...

Yes, I think we've seen this movie before... However the implications of the inevitable collapse are almost too terrifying to contemplate.

MTC said...

Chris -

When an investment professional whose appetite for risk includes soloing Kitadake in mid-winter (which is, to put it mildly, insane) tells me something is too terrifying to contemplate, then I REALLY get worried.