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Zero rates wrecked your savings? Relax on a $17,000 footstool

Scorpio

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#1
Zero rates wrecked your savings? Relax on a $17,000 footstool

FRANKFURT | By John O'Donnell

1.jpg


A one-legged coffee table is seen in Stockholm, Sweden, in this undated handout picture provided by Bukowskis company to Reuters February 19, 2016.

Reuters/Bukowskis/Handout via Reuters

It doesn't look like much, but a boxy wooden vintage Swedish footstool isn't just a place to rest your weary feet after cross-country skiing. It is the latest competition to hedge funds or high end real estate. And that means it will cost you $17,000.

A global glut of cheap money is prompting investors to take unprecedented risks in order to earn returns. From the United States to the 19-country euro zone, central banks have lowered interest rates to zero since the financial crisis started in 2007 and still haven't been able to raise them back.

Nearly a decade of free money helped these countries through the worst of the crisis, but at a heavy cost for savers, sapping earnings from traditional investments such as bonds and pushing many to look at riskier, unconventional alternatives.

Interest in hedge funds, property, paintings and wine has risen sharply.

This shift is pronounced in Sweden, a country where interest rates have long been at rock bottom. Bukowskis, a trendy Stockholm auction house, has seen rising demand for Swedish art and Scandinavian designer furniture.

The prices of humble-looking vintage carpets that capture the country's 1950s zeitgeist of social equality have risen more than ten-fold within five years. One sold for $82,000.

The $17,000 footstool is typical of the sort of minimalist, utilitarian furniture you might find at a Nordic summer cottage. For an extra $15,000, you can buy a small solid wood coffee table to go with it.

"Sales online in Sweden are exploding," said Paulina Sokolow, Bukowskis creative director. "The prices are really increasing. I don't think we've seen the peak."

Wine has been a big money maker. A 12-bottle case of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild from the 2000 vintage has risen in value from roughly $2,800 at the time to around $18,600 now. Bonus: whatever happens to prices, you can always drink it.

"The returns look attractive in the current climate," said Tom Gearing, managing director of Cult Wines, a British wine investment firm. "And if everything goes wrong, you are still going to have a tangible asset."

CASH HOARDING

Hans Peterson, chief investment strategist at Sweden's SEB bank, says many customers want new ways to invest.

"Clients are frustrated," he said. "It results in having to buy into cyclically sensitive assets such as equities, which can make those markets more volatile. People are also investing in property."

The soaring prices for Swedish footstools and rugs come in a country where property prices shot up by 36 percent since the end of 2013. The sale last year of a $12 million apartment in Stockholm set a new record, though it would barely be noticed in London or New York. The boom has been fueled in part by tax breaks but also by Sweden's zero interest rate that turned negative in 2015.

A negative rate increases the cost to banks of hoarding cash, designed to fire up lending.

But this heady environment, especially after a recent stock-market swoon, looks vulnerable.

"Are the risks too high?" said Peterson. "Only time will tell."

CAUTIONARY TALE

The experience of Japan, which has been struggling through two "lost decades" of stagnation, provides a cautionary tale.

Like many cities in Europe now, Tokyo too saw a sharp rise in property prices and in demand for art in the early 1990s.

An abrupt tightening of property investment rules by the Japanese government triggered a collapse in home prices, dragging down the art market with it.

Japan's subsequent slashing of borrowing rates, which reached zero around 2000, failed to reanimate the economy.

During nearly 20 years of deflation, consumers have postponed spending, believing prices will continue to fall. The country's debt meanwhile grew to twice the size of its economy.

This is precisely the fate that the European Central Bank is determined to avoid. Its chief means of doing so, however, involves keeping borrowing rates low.

In Switzerland, negative rates, which see the central bank charge banks to hold their money, are being passed on to some customers, forced to pay to keep money on deposit.

Some people prefer to stuff money under a mattress. The amount of cash stashed in homes or vaults from the euro zone has topped 1 trillion euros, much of it in 500-euro notes.

"It's become clear to everybody that we have negative interest rates, they seem to be here for a while and this affects preferences of investors," said Alfred Roelli, a senior portfolio manager at Pictet, a Swiss bank which introduces its clients to art and collectibles at special events.

He said the low rate environment "forces people to be more adventurous and more open to new investment ideas".

Robert Ketterer, who runs an auction house in Germany, said the low rates "are good for business because it prompts some, who say they can't get a return on their savings, to buy art."

"Owners, on the other hand, are reluctant to sell because they don't know what to do with the money."

($1 = 8.4873 Swedish crowns)

(Additional reporting by Johan Ahlander in Stockholm, Joshua Franklin in Zurich and Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo; editing by Peter Graff)

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-rates-impact-idUSKCN0VU0D4?feedType=RSS&feedName=PersonalFinance
 

anywoundedduck

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I was going to a coin show today. But now I think I'll go to the IKEA store and load up on Swedish furniture before the word gets out.
 

Hystckndle

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#3
Danish Modern.
Mid Century.
Whats next here ? Gotta dwell on this.
Just talking about this at the coffee shop.
Not to mention convos with the bearmeister.
Here it comes.
Time may be near to be in or miss a lot of it.
 

the_shootist

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I have some vintage American underwear (slightly used, no visible skid marks) I'll let go really cheap at $40,000. Get it now before the price skyrockets and there no cash left
 

gringott

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Hey, if it goes to it's true value [$10] you can still put your feet up.
 

oldgaranddad

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Oh boy! I remember the last time Wall Street and Funds got into the coin business in the 1980s. Prices rose like a rocket only to fall like a rock. Then again, it was a great time to pick up some key dates at bargain basement prices.
 

JayDubya

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People in Sweden put that money into antiques and vintage wine.

People in America put that money into the stock market.

Wonder who's going to come out better, on the back end of things...
 

Uglytruth

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Just goes to show people are trapped, pissed & desperate. Now..................... who controls the game..........
 

CrimsonGuardJay

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Hey, if it goes to it's true value [$10] you can still put your feet up.
I was gonna say, no offense to anyone, I'm an amateur when it comes to building things, but I'm 100% certain if you gave me a day and $15 and set me loose in a Home Depot or even a lumberyard scrap heap, I could make that for you.
 

GOLD DUCK

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I was gonna say, no offense to anyone, I'm an amateur when it comes to building things, but I'm 100% certain if you gave me a day and $15 and set me loose in a Home Depot or even a lumberyard scrap heap, I could make that for you.
QWAK,When I was a kid comic books were 10 cents now the same comic books sell for big bucks ---- back then SILVER was still real money now there is SOoooooooooooo much fake/digital currency the value of all things has been distorted! :thumbs down:

the DUCK :winks2:
 

Hystckndle

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#11
People in Sweden put that money into antiques and vintage wine.

People in America put that money into the stock market.

Wonder who's going to come out better, on the back end of things...
Yup,
People everywhere are doing the same.
Or
Perhaps its the money thats smart and not the people ?

Yeah, lotta brainwashing here about the so called market and its ability to give you a so called retirement.
I feel for the boomers at some level....and at another level ...I don't.
Gold comes in many forms.
Agnut taught me that.
Regards JD,
 

GOLD DUCK

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QWAK,I have a few very nice "cable spool" tables in assorted sizes, I would be willing to part with for 10K to 20K in GOLD --- if any one is interested.:2 thumbs up:

the DUCK:winks2: