GLOBAL - A report published this week by Barclays Capital suggests China's property bubble could be about to burst because it hosts 53% of the 124 skyscrapers currently under construction.
The firm's Skyscraper index - which claims a correlation between the number of skyscrapers under construction and impending financial crisis - said current building activity would expand the number of skyscrapers in Chinese cities by 87% over the next six years.
The company's report said: "Often the world's tallest buildings are simply the edifice of a broader skyscraper building boom, reflecting widespread misallocation of capital and an impending economic correction."
Comparing China in 2012 to New York in 1930 and Dubai in 2010, Barclays Capital analysts pointed out that skyscraper construction was characterised by long periods of inactivity punctuated by "erratically timed, intense activity typically coinciding with excessive monetary expansion in the global economy".
Current skyscraper construction activity reflects broader investment trends, with a shift from economically advanced tier-one cities toward inland second- and third-tier conurbations - a trend the analysts said provided yet more evidence of an expanding building bubble.
The analysts also suggested a correlation between skyscraper height and the extent of economic success.
In China's case, an increase in the average skyscraper height is a result of past liquidity that fuelled the building boom over the past few years.
Their report said: "The writing, so to speak, would seem to be already on the glass curtain walling."
A note issued by East Capital yesterday suggested the general mood in the Chinese real estate sector remained "extremely bearish" amid forecasts of property market collapse in the next few months.
Partner Karine Hirn pointed to likely knock-on effects in other sectors, notably commodities, consumer goods and banking.
"Somehow, the property market is like the temperature of the Chinese economy, which is why so many want to keep measuring it and draw conclusions for the health of China," she said.
Yet Hirn also pointed out the limits of government data for national trends that did not take into account local variations.
In some second-tier markets, such as Chengdu, there is little evidence of a slowdown in residential transactions despite recent vigorous government efforts to cool the market.
"The problem is that many so-called nationwide statistics exclude the smaller cities even though that's where the bulk of transactions take place," Hirn said.