Working on Wall Street when the tech wreck happened in 2000 was a lesson in the first rule of market corrections. They just happen.

Sure the danger signs are there but all those Market Strategists who were talking new paradigm the previous week were suddenly talking an overdue correction the day after.

No-one ever gets it right; there are those who warn of excess and those who ignore it.

While the fundamentals and valuations in various global equity markets like the US are not overstretched there remain a multitude of reasons to be concerned as to where equity markets are headed.

I received an email from an Investment Bank on Friday offering me an array of new investment options including exposure to the Chinese and Indian markets. The Shanghai Index doubled in 2006 and is up over 50% in 2007 while the Indian Sensex has doubled over the past three years.

Harvard MBA grads are falling over themselves to get jobs at the world’s leading private equity funds and global hedge funds. Harvard grads are a great indicator of corrections as they all flooded into dotcoms in 1999 and Investment Banks in 1987.

In a neverending game of “mine is bigger than yours” private equity funds keep upping the size of deals they are trying to do taking on ever-increasing amounts of leverage.

Perhaps though it is when financial market excess spills over into popular culture and the fashion industry that you truly know the correction is near.

I remember once sitting on a flight in the US next to a senior executive from Neiman Marcus who recalled the Tech Boom days when dot-commers would send back $25,000 watches because they were not “big” enough. His observation was telling. When you can start telling story after story of excess in high-end retail something nasty is coming.

Versace announced in March an arrangement with the Italian company AgustaWestland to produce tailored helicopter interiors for their range of commercial and personal helicopters. The Versace CEO was quoted as saying, “Interior design for helicopters is a natural extension with the Versace world.”

Oh, but things are “different” this time. There is of course no bubble.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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