Ken Rosen, UC Berkeley's Chair of the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, has a pretty solid record when it comes to predicting financial disaster: He called the 2000 dot-com implosion and the 2008 housing bust and subsequent economic crisis. And now he's sounding the alarm when it comes to the current boom. Should we listen?
The SF Business Times reports that Rosen's message of doom was expressed during the Fisher Center's Real Estate & Economics Symposium yesterday at the St. Francis hotel.
While speaking at the place perhaps best known as the site of actor Fatty Arbuckle's alleged sex-related slaying of Virginia Rappe, Rosen said that "This is the biggest boom we've ever had, and I have to tell you, 'Booms never end well.'"
According to Rosen, the pain point is China, specifically that "a hard landing there could spark a global recession," as Bloomberg described it last week.
If the Chinese economy collapses the way some analysts believe it might, we could see "a global downturn that leaves no region safe, including the United States," and spurs "investors to dump risky assets around the globe," the Business Times reports.
An event like this would hit the Bay Area hard, as "Any pullback in investors' risk appetite, and thus their willingness to write big checks to Uber and other profitless startups at lofty valuations, spells trouble for the regional economy," they report.
Citing Square's rock-bottom IPO price, Rosen says that when the investors stop writing checks, unicorns will start toppling.
"Unicorn layoffs are coming because they hired to scale and they're not all going to make it," Rosen predicted, saying he expected this to all go down within the next three years.
That said, Rosen didn't have an actual pop date in mind, just that it was going to happen.
"Bubbles never end well", he said, "but the timing is hard to say."