Oct 07, 2013

    Flight to safety

    MS FU Lili, 31, a psychologist in Fu Xin, a city in north-eastern China, said that she made 20,000 yuan (S$4,000) - more than 10 times her monthly salary then - buying and selling stocks before the 2008 financial crisis.

    But she won't touch stocks now, because she's too scared.

    In Moscow, Mr Yuri Shcherbanin, 32, a manager for an oil company, said the crash in 2008 proved that stocks were dangerous and that he should content himself with placing his money in the bank.

    Five years after United States investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering a global financial crisis and shattering confidence worldwide, families in major countries around the world are still too spooked to take chances with their money.

    An analysis of households in the 10 biggest economies showed that families continue to spend cautiously and have pulled hundreds of billions of dollars out of stocks, cut borrowing, and poured money into savings and bonds.

    The 10 biggest economies comprise the United States, China, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Brazil, Russia, Italy and India.

    "Lehman changed everything," said Mr Arne Holzhausen, a senior economist at global insurer Allianz, based in Munich, Germany. "It's safety, safety, safety (now)."

    A desire for safety drove people to dump stocks, even as prices rocketed from crisis lows in early 2009. Investors in the top-10 countries pulled US$1.1 trillion (about S$1.4 trillion) from stock mutual funds in the five years after the crisis.

    In the five years before the crisis, household debt in the 10 countries jumped 34 per cent, according to Credit Suisse.

    When the crisis hit, debt per adult in the 10 countries fell 1 per cent in the four years after 2007.

    Economists said that debt had not fallen in sync like that since the end of World War II.AP