Investors advised to stay on the sidelines

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  Cyclists ride past an unfinished building along a road on the outskirts of Hanoi. Photo: AFP

Investors with spare cash should hold onto their money as the uncertainties on Vietnam's gold, real estate and stock markets are not for the faint of heart, experts say.

Professor Le Tham Duong from the Ho Chi Minh City Banking University said it is now too risky to buy gold as prices on the domestic market are too high and are far outpacing global prices.

While some experts predicted gold prices would increase next year, Duong warned that prices may fluctuate beyond expectations.

Gold hit US$1,791.20 earlier this week, its highest point since last November.

Tran Thanh Hai, general director of investment firm Vietnam Gold Business, said he expected the precious metal would not surpass $1,924 an ounce this year. Even if global prices go up, local prices may still fall when the State Bank of Vietnam increases supply, he said.

Although gold is good for savings, short-term investors looking for a quick profit will face risks if they buy the metal now, Hai said.

The central bank last month allowed its only gold producer Saigon Jewelry Company to start pumping 13 tons of gold into the market in an attempt to cool prices. Still, gold hit a one-year high in Vietnam at the start of this month.

Economist Dinh The Hien said gold is now a risky investment, and the stock market is not a better option.

Vietnam's benchmark index just registered a 7.1 percent quarterly fall, which according to Reuters was the worst in Southeast Asia, adding onto a 4 percent fall for the second quarter.

There were hopes that strong public investment and credit flows would boost the market, but this has not happened so far, Hien said, noting that any rally on the market could be short-lived.

Considering all options, saving money in banks is now the safest choice with interest rates at 11-12 percent per year, he said.

Total deposits in banks have surged 11.23 percent this year. "The acceleration of deposit growth was due to the risky environment and economic difficulty, encouraging people to save more rather than investing or spending," Viet Capital Securities said in a note Tuesday.

Commenting on the real estate market, Hien said there have been no signs of a recovery later this year and the downturn could persist into next year, making it difficult to make profits.

The market is going through its toughest times yet, with prices falling continuously, he added.

Economist Nguyen Van Thuan said investors are now concerned with uncertainties because they do not know whether home prices have reached bottom. Liquidity on the secondary market is low, he added.

"The real estate market has witnessed decreases in selling prices and large discounts from many residential apartment projects," property firm Knight Frank said in its latest quarterly report. "Significant decreases in the secondary market recently have placed further pressure on developers of new product to reduce prices."

In Ho Chi Minh City, low confidence in the housing market could force the developers to use more ways to sell their products, leading to a continuous decreasing in selling prices on both the primary and secondary market, the company said

Knight Frank said the situation was similar in Hanoi, where demand for apartments remains low in all segments, especially in upper mid-end to high-end projects. Key buyers in the market were end users who preferred apartments in affordable to lower mid-end segments, the company said.

CB Richard Ellis said in a comment Monday that while some affordable segments saw positive trends, there has been "muted sales success" at higher-end projects. It was apparent that the "wait and see" mentality was still prevailing, the real estate company said.

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