Asset price crashes could continue this year, says World Economic Forum

Daniel Hofmann, Zurich Financial Services' group chief economist, said asset prices could fall to even worse levels than in 2008. Last year was one of the most volatile periods in the history of the financial markets.

"In 2009 I expect the financial crisis, which has been predominantly focused on the financial services industry so far, will start to spread into the real economies. For example there could be a higher level of businesses defaulting this year," added Hofmann.

From his economic research, he pointed to the US, Australia and New Zealand as being among those countries with the highest levels of asset bubble risk, as well as European nations and the Brazil, Russia, India and China group of emerging market countries. The report cited continuing falls in asset prices as one of the most important risks facing the world in 2009, alongside a sharp decline in Chinese economic growth, fiscal pressures on governments as a result of bailouts and the recession, and the consequences of global climate change.

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