It’s only a matter of time till the tech bubble bursts

Market optimists say the pandemic has changed the game for technology companies, by accelerating a shift to online commerce and cloud-computing that was already underway.

They brush aside comparisons with the bubble of 1999-2000 by pointing out, with some justification, that the current crop of tech companies are real businesses with genuine revenues and customers – unlike many of the early, far flimsier dotcom start-ups such as pets.com.

Not everyone agrees, of course.

Many believe the scramble for some tech IPOs is being fanned by novice retail investors using stock trading apps like Robinhood and by gamblers who gained a taste for the stockmarket during lockdown, when opportunities for a flutter on horseracing, football or in casinos temporarily dried up.

This weekend, gaming platform Roblox and fintech startup Affirm postponed their IPOs until early 2021, setting off fresh alarm bells over red hot valuations and volatile market conditions.

Either way, it’s worth remembering that it is in fact not especially hard to spot a financial bubble. 

What is far harder and has baffled experienced investors for centuries, is to correctly determine when it will burst.

After all, financial bubbles can often continue inflating for years after they have been identified before finally popping.

It is precisely that ‘fear of missing out’ on easy money, even when all rational evidence suggests valuations are overblown, that makes them so alluring to even the most hard-nosed investor and at a late stage in the cycle.

If and when this current boom does end however one thing is clear – the City of London will feel the chill winds blowing in from across the Atlantic.

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