German Economist: Fear To Dog Investors For Years

By BERNARD CONDON

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Investors around the world have retreated from risk before. But this time is different.

So says Arne Holzhausen, a senior economist at Allianz, an insurer based in Munich. He says what's keeping people from returning to taking chances with their money is not just a fear of loss, but a mistrust of the financial system. His prediction: Investors will remain cautious for several years to come.

Depending on your view, Holzhausen is qualified either to understand this new cautious world, or to exaggerate its impact. A German, he shares with his countrymen a reluctance to gamble with money even in the best of times. He also has seen the damage when the appetite for risk swings from one extreme to the other: He lived and studied in Japan in 1989-1990 when overconfident investors pushed stock prices to a record, then in 1994-1995 after many had sold at a loss and the economy had entered a two-decade slump.

In an interview, Holzhausen, 46, explained the psychological "scarring" that has kept people from buying stocks in the past five years, how living in Japan during its boom and bust shaped his views, why Germany is not the model economy widely assumed, and why he, like many Germans, has stayed away from stocks.

Excerpts below have been edited for clarity and length:

AP: Some economists talk about "scarring" from the financial crisis. What do they mean by that term?

Holzhausen: If you have a bad experience in your young, formative years, you don't easily forget. In the beginning of the (last) decade, there was the tech bubble, then came the financial crisis. The generations in their 30s and 40s will keep cautious.

It's not so much about value. People are deeply skeptical about the fairness of financial markets â¿¿ heads the banks win, tails you lose.

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