Des taux d'intérêt bas assurent-ils des prix d'actifs élevés ?

Les prix des actifs – actions, biens fonciers commerciaux, et même pétrole – ont atteint des sommets historiques partout dans le monde. Certes, l'histoire permet souvent de prédire avec justesse les tendances à venir, pourtant de temps à autre un élément fondamental change et crée un schéma nouveau. Il importe aujourd'hui de savoir si les prix élevés des actifs sont la conséquence de tels développements fondamentaux, ou si des bulles se sont formées.

L'une des raisons souvent mises en avant pour justifier les prix élevés des actifs est que les taux d'intérêt réels (corrigés de l'inflation) sont très bas. Mais les investisseurs feraient bien de se méfier de cet argument. Bien qu'il semble plausible, il n'est pas vraiment concluant et surtout, il ne prouve pas que les prix élevés vont durer.

Il est bien évidemment vrai que les taux d'intérêt à long terme ont connu un déclin marqué, non pas brusquement et sur une période récente, mais à une allure assez régulière depuis plus de vingt ans. À en croire le FMI, les taux d'intérêt réels à long terme dans le monde ont culminé à presque 7% en moyenne en 1984, et sont tombés juste en dessous de 2% en 2004. Il y a eu des hauts et des bas en chemin, mais la tendance générale était à la baisse et l'ampleur du déclin, presque cinq points de pourcentage, est frappante.

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