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中国是否会引发全球衰退?
A new Chinese export — recession risk

2020-9-17 23:33| 发布者: 寒夜孤星| 查看: 3256| 评论: 0

摘要: Is a global economic recession likely? If so, what might trigger it? Willem Buiter, Citi’s chief economist and the Financial Times’ erstwhile Maverecon blogger, answers these questions: “Yes” and ...
A new Chinese export — recession risk
Is a global economic recession likely? If so, what might trigger it? Willem Buiter, Citi’s chief economist and the Financial Times’ erstwhile Maverecon blogger, answers these questions: “Yes” and “China”. His case is plausible. This does not mean we must expect a recession. But people should see such a scenario as plausible.

Mr Buiter does not expect world output to decline. The notion here is a “growth recession”, a period of growth well below the potential rate of about 3 per cent. One might imagine 2 per cent or less. Mr Buiter estimates the likelihood of such an outcome at 40 per cent.

His scenario would start with China. Like many others, he believes China’s growth is overstated by official statistics and may be as low as 4 per cent. This is plausible, if not universally accepted.

It might become even worse. First, an investment share of 46 per cent of gross domestic product would be excessive in an economy growing 7 per cent, let alone one growing at 4 per cent. Second, a huge expansion of debt, often of doubtful quality, has accompanied this excessive investment. Yet merely sustaining investment at these levels would require far more borrowing. Finally, central government, alone possessed of a strong balance sheet, might be reluctant to offset a slowdown in investment, while the shares of households in national income and consumption in GDP are too low to do so.

Suppose, then, that investment shrank drastically as demand and balance-sheet constraints bit. What might be the effects on the world economy?

One channel would be a decline in imports of capital goods. Since about a third of global investment (at market prices) occurs inside China, the impact could be large. Japan, South Korea and Germany would be adversely affected.

A more important channel is commodity trade. Commodity prices have fallen, but are still far from low by historical standards (see chart). Even with prices where they are, commodity exporters are suffering. Among them are countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Gulf States, Kazakhstan, Russia and Venezuela. Meanwhile, net commodity importers, such as India and most European countries, are gaining.

Shocks to trade interact with finance. Many adversely affected companies are highly indebted. The resulting financial stresses force cutbacks in borrowing and spending upon them, directly weakening economies. Changes in financial conditions exacerbate such pressures. Among the most important are movements in interest and exchange rates and shifts in the perceived soundness of borrowers, including sovereigns. Changes in capital flows and risk premia and shifts in the policies of important central banks exacerbate the stresses. At present, the most important shift would be a decision by the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.

As Warren Buffettsaid: “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.” According to the Bank of International Settlements, credit to non-bank borrowers outside the US totalled $9.6tn at the end of March. A strong dollar makes any currency mismatches costly. These may start on the balance sheets of non-financial corporations. But the impact will be transmitted via their losses to banks and governments. Thus, reversal of “carry trades”, funded by cheap borrowing, might wreak havoc.

A visible shift is a decline in foreign exchange reserves, driven by deteriorating terms of trade, capital flight and withdrawal of previous capital inflows. This might cause “quantitative tightening”, as central banks sell holdings of longer-dated safe bonds. This is one of the ways that these shocks might be transmitted to the high-income countries, including even the US. But this also depends on what the holders of the withdrawn funds do with it and on the policies of affected central banks.

What we might see, then, is a series of real and financial linkages: declining investment and output in China; weaknesses in economies dependent on that country’s purchases or on prices set by its buying; and reversals of carry trades and shifts in exchange rates and risk premia that stress balance sheets.

How might policymakers respond? China will surely let its currency fall rather than continue to lose reserves, not least because usable reserves are smaller than headline numbers, which include infrastructure investments in Africa and elsewhere that cannot quickly be sold. The policy space of other emerging economies is greater than in the past, but not unlimited. They will be forced to adjust to these shocks rather than resist them.

Meanwhile, the policy choices of high-income countries are restricted: politics has almost universally ruled out fiscal expansion; the intervention rates of central banks are near zero; and, in many high-income economies, private leverage is still quite high. If the slowdown were modest, nothing much might be done. The best response to a big slowdown might be “helicopter money”, created by the central bank to stimulate spending. But its use seems quite unlikely. The conventional rules.

In brief, a global growth-recession scenario “made in China” is perfectly plausible. If it were to happen, a decision by the Fed to tighten now would come to look downright foolish. We are not talking about the sort of disaster that accompanies a global financial crisis. But the world economy will remain vulnerable to adversity until China has completed its transition to a more balanced pattern of growth, and the high-income economies have recovered from their crises. That is still far away.

全球经济是否可能会出现衰退?若果真如此,可能引发衰退的因素是什么?花旗(Citi)首席经济学家、曾经为英国《金融时报》撰写名为“非正统经济学”(Maverecon)的博客的威廉?比特(Willem Buiter)对此的回答是:“有可能”以及“中国”。他的理由有些道理。这并不意味着一定会出现衰退。但人们应该认为这种情况是可能发生的。

比特并没有预测全球产出会下滑。他说的是“增长衰退”,是增长率将远远低于潜在水平(约3%)的一段时期。人们可能会设想2%或更低。比特估计,出现这种结果的可能性是40%。

他的假设始于中国。与其他很多人一样,他认为,中国的经济增速并没有官方数据显示的那么高,可能只有4%。这是可能的,甚至是被普遍接受的。

情况可能变得更糟。首先,投资占国内生产总值(GDP)的比例达46%,这个比例对于一个增速为7%的经济体都太高了,更别说对于一个增速为4%的经济体了。其次,伴随这种过度投资的是债务的大规模扩张,债务质量往往还是有问题的。然而,即便只是为了维持这种投资速度,也需要远远更多的借款。最后,唯一拥有强健资产负债表的中央政府可能不愿出手抵消投资的放缓,而家庭占国民收入、以及消费占GDP的比重过低,无法抵消投资的放缓。

接下来,假设投资大规模下滑,同时需求和资产负债表的局限性产生不良影响。这可能会对全球经济产生何种影响?

一个影响途径可能是资本品进口下滑。目前约三分之一的全球投资(以市场价格衡量)发生在中国,因此其影响可能是巨大的。日本、韩国和德国将受到不利影响。

一个更重要的途径是大宗商品贸易。大宗商品价格已经下跌了不少,但根据历史标准衡量还远不算低(见图表)。即便以现在的价格水平,大宗商品出口国的日子也不好过。其中包括澳大利亚、巴西、加拿大、海湾国家、哈萨克斯坦、俄罗斯和委内瑞拉。与此同时,印度和多数欧洲国家等大宗商品净进口国正在受益。

贸易受到的冲击与财务状况相互影响。许多遭受负面影响的公司负债累累。由此导致的财务压力迫使它们减少借款和支出,这直接削弱了经济。资金状况的变化加剧了此类压力。其中最重要的变化是利率和汇率的变动以及对借款者(包括主权国家在内)健康状况看法的转变。资本流动和风险溢价的改变以及重要央行的政策转变加剧了这些压力。就目前而言,最重要的转变可能就是美联储加息的决定。

正如沃伦?巴菲特(Warren Buffett)所言:“你只有在退潮时才能发现谁在裸泳。”国际清算银行(Bank of International Settlements)的数据显示,在今年3月底,美国以外地区的非银行借贷者的信贷总额达到9.6万亿美元。美元强势让所有货币错配付出巨大代价。这些可能首先体现在非金融企业的资产负债表上,但影响将会通过它们的损失传递给银行和政府。因此,在由廉价信贷提供资金的“利差交易”发生逆转时,就可能造成巨大破坏。

一个明显的转变是,由贸易状况恶化、资本外流以及早先流入资本的回流导致的外汇储备下降。随着各国央行抛售持有的较长期安全债券,这可能导致“量化紧缩”。这是这些冲击可能传导至高收入国家(甚至包括美国)的方式之一。但这也取决于回流资本的持有者如何处置收回的资金以及受影响央行的政策。

因此我们可能看到的是,一系列实体经济与金融的联系:中国投资和产出不断下降;依赖中国的购买(或者中国的购买造就的高价)的经济体出现疲弱;以及利差交易逆转,汇率和风险溢价发生变化、令资产负债表承压。

政策制定者可能会如何回应?中国肯定会让人民币贬值,而不是继续损失外汇储备维持币值,这主要是因为外汇储备总额中还包括不可能迅速卖掉的非洲和其他地方的基础设施投资,并非全部可用。其他新兴经济体的政策空间比过去要大,但也不是无限的。它们将被迫调整以适应这些冲击,而非抵挡它们。

与此同时,高收入国家的政策选择是有限的:出于政治上的原因,财政扩张几乎在所有地方都是不可能的;央行的政策利率接近于零;而且在许多高收入经济体,私人部门的杠杆仍相当高。如果放缓是温和的,也许几乎不会出台任何政策。对严重放缓的最佳回应可能是“直升机撒钱”——由央行印钱以刺激支出。但央行似乎不太可能使用这种方式。传统做法占据主导地位。

简言之,貌似很有可能出现一场“中国制造”的全球增长低迷。若果真如此,假如美联储决定现在加息,看起来将是愚蠢透顶的。我们说的不是与全球金融危机相伴随的那种灾难。但在中国完成向更平衡的增长模式转型、高收入经济体从危机中复苏之前,世界经济将依然很容易遭受厄运冲击。想高枕无忧还早着呢。

译者/何黎


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