I thank Gary North for alerting me to this. It’s far more than just historical coincidence. The announcement that China is going to build the world’s tallest building is a strong indicator that it is going into (if it hasn’t already gone into) recession. Tall buildings signal the top.
This 4th of July will mark the groundbreaking of the Freedom Tower at ground zero of the World Trade Center. The design of the building calls for a height of 1,776 symbolic feet, which will capture the title of world’s tallest building when it is completed in late 2008 or 2009.
Groundbreakings, opening ceremonies, and certainly July 4th are all causes for celebration, but the Freedom Tower may be a signal that something much more sinister is afoot. For more than a century there has been a correlation between the building of the world’s tallest building and severe economic downturns.
That correlation is eerie, but here it is:
The correlation is as follows. The announcement and groundbreaking for the world’s tallest building takes place at the end of a long boom or sustained bubble in the economy. The stocks go into a
bear market; the economy goes into recession or worse. The building is completed. The economic turmoil that ensues is either severe, drawn out, or as in the case of the Great Depression, both.
The Panic of 1907 which helped bring about the Federal Reserve Act was signaled by the building of the 612 foot Singer Building completed in 1908 and the 700 foot Metropolitan Life completed in 1909. There was only a short, sharp downturn in 1913 when the 792 foot Woolworth building was completed, as the establishment of the Fed and WWI intervened.
And then this:
The Great Depression was signaled by a series of three record-breaking skyscrapers. The 927 foot Wall Street building was completed in 1929; the 1046 foot Chrysler Building was completed in 1930; and the 1250 foot Empire State Building was completed in 1931. The Great Depression helped bring on Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The 1970s were characterized by high rates of unemployment and inflation. This “stagflation” was signaled by the building of the 1368 foot high World Trade Towers which were completed in 1972 and 1973. The Sears Tower set a new record at 1450 feet when it was completed in 1974.
Then Thornton explains why the correlation is valid, in economic terms. Faulty price signals at the top of a boom cause bad decisions to be made, often very bad:
At first glance the association of record-setting skyscrapers and economic crisis would seem to be a spurious correlation. Surely, the building of such skyscrapers does not cause economic crisis. However, there is good reason to believe that skyscrapers and crisis are linked via the business cycle. Long periods of easy credit create economic booms, particularly in investment, speculation becomes pronounced, and entrepreneurs lose their compass of economic rationality and make big mistakes. The biggest mistakes — record-setting skyscrapers — comes toward the end of the long boom and signal the bust. (my emphasis)
The Chinese economy, like ours, has been running on paper money for years and giving out false and misleading signals to investors. They have made the mistake which I characterize as “straight line thinking in a curvilinear world.” Here’s a link to the announcement that not only are they going to build the world’s tallest building, they’re promising to do it in 90 days!
Stay tuned and watch for the coming recession in China.