Is there a financial crisis coming?
That would be truly terrible. The relatively strong position of the banking and financial sector this year is the one thing the global economy has going for it.
But Sir John Key thinks there is and that's worrying given his role as chairman of New Zealand's largest bank.
The former PM told a conference in Auckland last week that property and equity markets were currently being buoyed by record low-interest rates.
"We have a financial crisis coming," he said.
Perhaps it was just meant as a reminder that things could get a lot worse for this economy if we're not careful.
Still, allowing for poetic licence, it was highly pessimistic for someone in his position.
A financial crisis in the near future wouldn't just be a deeper economic slump with unemployment ticking higher by degrees.
It would be an absolute disaster for New Zealand and the world. Credit markets would freeze, interest rates would spike, banks would fail, retirement savings would be lost.
All of that happened in the global financial crisis of 2008.
We only got through thanks to the radical response of central banks and central government.
But monetary policy never recovered from the shock.
Now, with the pandemic requiring further rounds of rate cuts and cash injections via quantitative easing and wage subsidies, the firepower of central banks and governments to deal with another financial crisis is greatly diminished.
Predicting a financial crisis while we're still dealing with the economic shock of Covid, seems unthinkably grim.
But Key is right that asset prices are being propped up by low rates.
His financial crisis warning is valid and timely.
Monetary policy responses to Covid have ensured credit markets kept working, banks are strong and property market is stable.
They've also maintained conditions for a potential asset bubble and market mania.
Gold prices busted through a record-high US$2000 an ounce last week.
Equity markets are approaching pre-Covid levels - which were already so high they were giving fund managers vertigo back in February.
Tech stocks in particular have benefited from the Covid crunch.
People can see that the lockdown and travel restraints of the pandemic have accelerated tech adoption.
Money has poured into the tech stocks.
The big ones - Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google (dubbed the FAANG stocks) - have collectively soared by 95 per cent in the past 12 months.
According to Bloomberg, the hottest tech stock in the world this year is a Singapore-based gaming and e-commerce company called Sea Ltd.
Its share price is up 880 per cent in 18 months and it is yet to make a profit.
Locally, New Zealand favourite Xero is trading at record highs on the ASX - up 54 per cent in the past year.
On the NZX, Pushpay - a smart local company which provides electronic payment solutions for charitable donations - has seen its shares rise more than 140 per cent in the past year.
It seems incredible given the state of the global economy that we are at risk of asset bubbles forming - again.
That's certainly not an issue I thought we'd be worrying about when the world was plunging into lockdown and people were just worried there would still be toilet paper on the supermarket shelves.
In fact, I thought the overdue market correction was the one bright spot.
What the investment surge of the past few months has highlighted is how far markets have detached from the real world.
The forces driving capital are now more powerful than the economics of daily life.
The accumulated wealth of the historically large baby-boomer generation is a driver.
There are trillions of dollars in retirement funds seeking returns that banks can't offer.
The infrastructure that's grown up around this wealth is aiding and abetting the trend.
We've seen the rise of index tracking managed funds that make it easy to follow certain sectors.
Now we're seeing the rise of phone apps like Sharesies and Robinhood which make it easy for people to behave like traders.
While the world remains hooked on debt and growth, interest rates have to stay low.
They are set to do so for sometime yet - which just reinforces the confidence of investors and exacerbates the trend.
Where and when does it end - how do we get off this crazy money train?
We've just been through a decade in which the big central banks have tried and failed to unwind the emergency monetary policy of the GFC.
Now we're digging ourselves in even deeper.
To struggle through the economic downturn of the Covid crisis, celebrate some kind of end to the pandemic and then run smack into the next financial crisis would be a horror scenario.
It does seem almost unthinkably grim. It would certainly be unthinkably cruel.
But history has a habit of not caring what we think.
Collectively there isn't much we can do from this part of the world.
Our Reserve Bank has limited scope to buck the trend.
The US Fed will do what the US Fed does - it will look after Wall Street.
Global markets will remain at its mercy.
But at a personal level, we should probably push back against our most speculative impulses.
We shouldn't forget that financial crisis risk is still lurking.