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China Real Estate ETFs Are Jumping

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK ( ETF Expert) -- Why are so many ill-informed analysts determined to "reveal" an ugly property bubble in China?

For starters, most of those who write about China have never lived in the region; they understand precious little about Chinese culture or the mainland's government.

Equally important, empty buildings or high price-to-income ratios may be indicative of future price declines, but they alone do not cause bursting balloons; that requires extraordinary participation in leveraged speculation.

Those who foolishly make a case for China's economic demise via a real estate disaster have not done their homework.

The 1996-2005 mega-boom in U.S. property was a function of no-money-down and low-money lending to exceedingly weak credit risk (i.e., subprime) buyers. The U.S. government subsequently bailed out multiple parties, including the financiers and the government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae (FNMA). And the government now has an onerous level of debt, causing some to wonder whether it will ever be able to repay it.

In contrast, the Chinese government has trillions of yuan in reserve. China wouldn't necessarily need to increase taxes or cut spending or print money if it needed to bail out a segment of its population or prop up a number of business entities.

How is it that "ghost city" commentators see a direct parallel in property bubble scenarios when a well-financed Chinese government can act quickly to minimize the extent of their troubles? Lest anyone forget, the most important financial institutions in China are well-capitalized and essentially owned by the Chinese government.

There's also the cultural disparity. Whereas U.S. citizens regularly consume more than they can afford in an "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday" existence, Chinese citizens fund their purchases with what they have saved. This includes home purchases. And if they don't have the money, they'll ask members of their family for assistance.

So if doom-and-gloomers on the China property sector have missed the boat on government situation as well as Chinese culture, could they be right about leverage?

Nope. Most property in China is bought with at least 50% down, and Chinese banks have stringent lending requirements. Prices could decline precipitously, but there can be no balloon bursting without the helium-like leverage of horrific underwriting.
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