An ‘economic tsunami’ would undermine world markets and send Australian property prices back to levels not seen since the late 1990s, an American economic forecaster and author has warned.
Harry Dent, who is in Australia to promote his book, The Great Crash Ahead - How to Prosper in the Debt Crisis of 2010-2012, was reported to have said that the world will experience a second, deeper downturn, which will arrive in the first half of 2012.
He said the downturn would begin in Europe, spreading across the globe to US, China and eventually Australia, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.
"Australia is probably the best place in the world to survive this, but we do think Australia will not escape as well as it did from the last crisis (in 2008),'' Mr Dent said.
He said the centre of the coming debt crisis would be real estate.
"People in places like Sydney or Tokyo or Miami say, 'Hey, real estate can never go down here, we're a great place, everyone wants to move here, there's not much land for development', and what I say is that is exactly the kind of place that bubbles,'' Mr Dent said.
"Outside Hong Kong and Shanghai, Australia is the most expensive real estate market in the world compared to income.''
Mr Dent believed Australia's house prices would return to late 1990s or early 2000 levels, the report said.
Driving all these changes is simple demographics, specifically the peak of the baby boomers' spending, Mr Dent said.
"We predicted this (current) downturn in the US 20 years ago,'' he said.
"We said that in 2007 the peak number of baby boomers will reach their peak spending. They would have bought all their homes and then they will start saving for retirement ... and that you are going to see this downturn.''
China would also feel the brunt of the expected drop-off in spending.
To survive the incoming "economic tsunami'', Mr Dent said investors should sell their excess real estate and buy up assets in US dollars.
"Gold and silver are going to crash, they're a bubble,'' he said.
"Once we write down all these crazy debts, we are going to destroy a lot of dollars that were created in the boom and that makes the (US) dollar a lot more valuable.''