Soros says the crisis is over but bear market will persist

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The Independent Online
GEORGE SOROS, the superstar financier and pessimist about the financial markets in which he made his fortune, said yesterday he thought the global crisis was over.

But he warned that there would be after-shocks and further weakness in the markets. "I still think we are in a bear market," Mr Soros said at the London launch of his new book, The Crisis of Global Capitalism.

"The shock is probably behind us; it is the after-effects that are going to affect markets and economies," he said, adding that prospects look much brighter now than two months ago. "The financial markets have staged a remarkable recovery. I did not anticipate the extent of the recovery."

Indeed, Mr Soros started his presentation with great modesty, stating: "I'm very often wrong."

When asked to justify his description on the book cover as "an authentic financial genius" by predicting where the FTSE 100 index would be at the end of next year, he joked: "I know the number exactly, but I'm not at liberty to disclose it."

However, he did not entirely disappoint those looking for out-and-out pessimism. Mr Soros, reputed to have made pounds 1bn forcing sterling out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in September 1992, warned that the pound would be vulnerable to speculation if the UK stayed out of the euro. He added that the UK would also face risks if it stayed out.

Mr Soros reserved his greatest bearishness for the state of the world economy, arguing that there are strong deflationary pressures caused by overproduction. For the core stockmarkets that meant severe pressure on profit margins. While lower interest rates were welcome, it might not be enough to prevent a downturn, he said.

The compelling interest of his new book is, of course, that it is essentially a confession. A man who has made billions in the markets has concluded that they must as a matter of urgency be reformed.

Capital flows from `core' countries such as the US and UK to emerging markets have dried up, and Mr Soros said a new system of credit insurance was needed to rebuild the global economic link. The crisis had also revealed the need for more international co-operation between national regulators.

However, he defended speculative hedge funds against charges that they caused the near-meltdown this summer. "I don't think they can or should be singled out," he said, just a touch impatiently.