Property Market returns...

Property market returns will weaken in 2008 and 2009 across Europe, with rental growth decelerating as the economic slowdown gathers pace. Capital values will also decline, particularly in locations where yields had fallen to extremely low levels. Nevertheless, the correction has already been rapid in markets such as the UK, and yields in such locations will rise to levels that could prove attractive to investors in 2009.

The US sub-prime mortgage market crisis has turned into a full scale banking panic, prompted by the failure of Lehman Brothers. Credit market stress is the highest since the 1930s in the US, and the post-war period in the case of Germany. The crisis has jolted European governments into unprecedented banking sector capital injections, in an attempt to boost confidence and restart lending in the capital markets. Moreover, a number of central banks in Europe joined in a co-ordinated global move to cut interest rates by 50 basis points in October and further large moves are expected in the year ahead. Reduced risk taking though has forced Hungary and Denmark to raise interest rates to support their respective currencies.

European GDP in Q2 showed the first material drop since 1993 as consumer spending came under pressure from higher food and oil prices. Recent falls in commodity prices will provide relief to consumers, but this will not fully offset the damaging impact of markedly tighter bank lending conditions for households and companies. By Q3, inflation pressures had started to ease across the region from relatively high levels but at the same time unemployment rates had started to edge higher, especially in the UK and Spain, and consumer confidence has slumped.

The eurozone economy will slow in 2009 to the weakest pace of growth since the early 1990s, hit by weakening global demand. Where housing booms are in the process of unwinding, such as the UK, Ireland and Spain, we see greatest risks of a recession in the next year. Compared to the Anglo-Saxon economies, the eurozone and the Nordics are in better shape due to a lack of external imbalances or high indebtedness on the part of households, although notable exceptions to this include Ireland, Spain and Denmark. Much lower interest rates and substantial support for the banking system should form the basis for a return of liquidity to the financial markets in 2009. Financial institutions will grapple for sometime with impaired capital markets and new problem loans; though a modest improvement in European activity is expected by the latter half of next year and into 2010. The risk for emerging Europe is for a sharper and prolonged slowdown due to its reliance upon foreign capital inflows to sustain growth, and has already led to the IMF providing support to Hungary and the Ukraine.