环球外汇讯息频道

量化流沙

2013-06-07 15:53

几乎所有从衰退中的复苏都包括快速的就业增长——直到现在。虽然全球经济危机后,发达国家的央行追求了扩张性货币政策来刺激需求,就业创造依然迟缓。因此,工人们越来越确信,他们在一段时间内将无法找到工作,因而成群结队的离开劳动力大军。

这种现象在美国表现的最明显,美联储(Fed)将利率降至前所未有的水平,并通过量化宽松政策(QE),通过资产购买增强银行储备。但通货膨胀——快速的货币供应扩张将不可避免的导致通胀——目前为止一直低迷,在大约为2%,因为银行未使用肿胀的储备扩大信贷,增加流动性。虽然这限制了价格的波动,也阻碍了就业的增长。

然而,美联储并未改变其做法,通过推出更多轮次的量化宽松政策来刺激缓慢增长的就业。显然,它的基本原理是,如果外汇储备扩大至超过2万亿美元没有产生预期的结果,每月再加850亿美元——今年增加1万亿美元——可能会奏效。

美国的央行很容易就能发现为什么量化宽松不起作用;证据定期发布,任何人都能看到。第二轮量化宽松期间(QE2,从2010年11月到2011年7月),美联储总计增加了5,579亿美元的储备,超额准备金增加了5,465亿美元。这意味着,银行流传的货币量仅占QE2的2%,其余则闲置。类似地,自从去年9月推出第三轮量化宽松(QE3),银行总储备增长了2,441亿美元,超额准备金增加2,394亿美元,这意味着99%的资金仍然闲置。

鉴于银行准备金账户可赚取0.25%的利息,但给他们的储户支付的利息较低——事实上,接近于零——因此他们可能选择闲置资金,获取无风险利息,而不是通过经济循环资金。在当前利率水平下,银行贷款给政府、大型企业和商业房地产商;他们不提供信贷风险较高的借款,如给初创企业或首次购房者贷款。随着美联储资产购买计划延续,投机者和银行从逐渐下滑的利率中获利,预期的货币和信贷刺激缺失。

在某些时候,美联储必须认识到,当前的政策是无用的。但发展更有效的替代政策需要了解美国经济的实际问题——美联储似乎并不了解。事实上,美联储主席伯南克(Ben Bernanke)经常说他的目标是防止另一场大萧条,尽管2008年美联储有效地解决了这种风险。

美国经济还没有回应美联储的货币扩张,因为美国最大的问题是没有流动性。每一个经济学专业的学生在早期学习中都学过,货币政策不能解决实体经济中的问题,只有影响实体经济的政策变动可以。美联储应该重学这课。

一个主要的问题,即投资不足,主要是由于美国总统奥巴马(Barack Obama)增加了对那些年收入超过25万美元的人的税收,最近,他提议限制退休津贴。这些提议遭到了反对,奥巴马预计不会签署不增加税收的赤字削减法案。只要税收来源和新法规的未来影响不确定,那些受到政策危害的人——美国最大的储蓄者——就不太可能投资。

同样,奥巴马的医疗改革,《平价医保法》,阻碍了就业增长,因为企业减少招聘,减少工人工作时长来减少劳动力成本的增加。与此同时,摇摇欲坠的欧洲经济和中国和其他地区GDP增长的放缓阻碍了出口需求。

受到抑制的流动性和信贷增长延迟了美联储扩大银行外汇储备所带来的通胀影响,但美国不可能永远远离通胀。美联储——几乎所有其他主要央行——正在建设的储备最终将被使用。

Quantitative Quicksand

2013-06-07 15:53

Almost all recoveries from recession have included rapid employment growth – until now. Though advanced-country central banks have pursued expansionary monetary policy in the wake of the global economic crisis in an effort to boost demand, job creation has lagged. As a result, workers, increasingly convinced that they will be unable to find employment for a sustained period, are leaving the labor force in droves.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more pronounced than in the United States, where the Federal Reserve has reduced interest rates to unprecedented levels and, through quantitative easing (QE), augmented bank reserves by purchasing financial assets. But inflation – which rapid money-supply expansion inevitably fuels – has so far remained subdued, at roughly 2%, because banks are not using their swelling reserves to expand credit and increase liquidity. While this is keeping price volatility in check, it is also hindering employment growth.

Rather than changing its approach, however, the Fed has responded to slow employment growth by launching additional rounds of QE. Apparently, its rationale is that if expanding reserves by more than $2 trillion has not produced the desired results, adding $85 billion more monthly – another $1 trillion this year – might do the trick.

America’s central bankers need not search far to find out why QE is not working; evidence is published regularly for anyone to see. During QE2 (from November 2010 to July 2011), the Fed added a total of $557.9 billion to reserves, and excess reserves grew by $546.5 billion. That means that banks circulated only 2% of QE2’s contribution, leaving the rest idle. Similarly, since QE3 was launched last September, total bank reserves have grown by $244.1 billion, and excess reserves by $239.4 billion – meaning that 99% of the funds remain idle.

Given that banks earn 0.25% in interest on their reserve accounts, but pay very low – indeed, near-zero – interest to their depositors, they might choose to leave the money idle, drawing risk-free interest, rather than circulate it through the economy. At current interest rates, banks lend to the government, large stable corporations, and commercial real-estate dealers; they do not extend credit to riskier borrowers, like start-up companies or first-time home buyers. While speculators and bankers profit from the decline in interest rates that accompanies the Fed’s asset purchases, the intended monetary and credit stimulus is absent.

At some point, the Fed must realize that its current policy is not working. But developing a more effective alternative requires an understanding of the US economy’s actual problems – something that the Fed also seems to lack. Indeed, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke often says that his goal is to prevent another Great Depression, even though the Fed addressed that risk effectively in 2008.

The US economy has not responded to the Fed’s monetary expansion, because America’s biggest problems are not liquidity problems. As every economics student learns early on, monetary policy cannot fix problems in the real economy; only policy changes affecting the real economy can. The Fed should relearn that lesson.

One major problem, insufficient investment, is rooted in President Barack Obama’s effort to increase the tax paid by those whose annual incomes exceed $250,000 and, more recently, in his proposal to cap retirement entitlements. While such proposals have been met with opposition, Obama cannot be expected to sign a deficit-reduction bill that does not include more revenue. As long as that revenue’s sources, and the future effects of new regulations, remain uncertain, those whom the policies would most harm – the country’s largest savers – are unlikely to invest.

Likewise, Obama’s health-care reform, the Affordable Care Act, has hampered employment growth, as businesses reduce their hiring and cut workers’ hours to shelter themselves from increased labor costs . Meanwhile, the faltering European economy and slowing GDP growth in China and elsewhere are impeding export demand.

While subdued liquidity and credit growth are delaying the inflationary impact of the Fed’s determination to expand banks’ already-massive reserves, America cannot escape inflation forever. The reserves that the Fed – and almost all other major central banks – are building will eventually be used.

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