环球外汇讯息频道

货币战场表现平静

2013-06-12 15:44

术语“货币战争”是“竞争性贬值”的流行叫法。由于日本采取货币政策以推动经济增长,日元汇率在过去6个月里急剧下降,预计这一议题将在北爱尔兰举行的八国集团(G8)峰会上获得较多关注。但应该这样吗?

据国际货币基金组织(IMF),竞争性贬值发生在国家“操纵汇率…来获得不公平的竞争优势时”。但关键点常被忽略,术语“汇率战”已经普遍应用于美联储(Fed)、日本央行(BoJ)和其他中央银行近年来的货币扩张举措中。货币刺激政策对一个国家贸易平衡的影响——对贸易伙伴的商品的需求的影响——是模棱两可的:支出转换效应,汇率反应被扩张的支出增加效应抵消。恢复收入增长意味着更多来自其他国家的进口产品。

“货币战争”更贴切的用法是在国家干预以压低其货币,刻意帮助贸易平衡时。但政府将/应该采取符合本国利益的经济政策。国际合作可以是卓有成效的;但尝试的意义不大,如果溢出效应不清晰。例如,每个人都同意污染或关税的溢出效应是消极的,而不是积极的。但这种情况并在货币政策中并不明显。

例如,如果美国失业率高,通胀低,美联储自然将放松货币政策,特别是通过低利率。如果巴西存在过热的危险,其央行自然会收紧政策,特别是通过高利率。因此资本流向从北到南也在情理之中,最终导致巴西雷亚尔相对于美元升值。这是浮动汇率的美丽之处:这两个国家都可以自己选择适当的政策。

鉴于两国在不同的位置,汇率变动表明国际经济系统运转正常。尽管强势巴西雷亚尔将帮助美国的出口商(在其他条件相同的情况下),伤害巴西出口商;然而,它们切中要点。如果目标是刺激对美国商品的需求,抑制对巴西货物的需求,为什么两国的出口商不能分享这一过程?

如果一个国家设定汇率目标,甚至固定汇率(许多拉美国家政府为消除高通胀,在1980年代末和1990年代初采取了相关做法),一个更严重的困境将出现。在出现危机迹象时,该国不一定要放弃被证明有效的汇率机制。资本管制和限制储备流动可能有助于延缓调整时间,但持久的单向资本流动最终将迫使固定汇率国家允许其汇率或货币供应被调整。

真的,近年来,许多国家已经表示偏好弱势货币,以改善贸易平衡。同样,根据定义,不是每个人都能在同一时间贬值或提高贸易平衡。但这并不一定意味着贬值国违反任何协议或规范,特别是当他们仅仅是维持现有汇率制度的时候。

不协调的货币扩张不一定会让地球变得更糟平衡。巴里?埃森格林(Barry Eichengreen)和杰弗里?萨克斯已(Jeffrey Sachs)曾在30年代时就此进行过争论(传统智慧与以邻为壑的竞争性货币贬值相悖)。尽管所有的国家不能同时改善他们的贸易平衡,当他们的货币相对于黄金贬值时,他们成功地提高了黄金的价格,从而增加全球货币供应的实际价值——正是处于抑郁中世界所需要的。

今天也是如此。巴西财政部长曼特加(Guido Mantega)杜撰了 “汇率战”这个术语抨击美国的做法。但控告美国是站不住脚的。美国的货币扩张政策导致全球货币扩张的时候,它是必要的。美国当局没有干预外汇市场,或贬低美元,货币贬值不是美联储决定量化宽松政策时的目标。

日本比较接近于货币战士,因为安倍晋三(Shinzo Abe)政府成员最初蠢到将日元贬值作为一个明确的目标。

一些受到货币战指责的国家近年来采取了不连续的贬值举措,或通过改变汇率机制削弱本国货币。这些刻意的政策变动被称为“操纵”。瑞士也许接近。但是瑞郎如此强势,即使在2011年9月设定新利率时,没有人可以指责瑞士央行不公平的低估瑞郎。

世界已经有了足够多的严重纠纷。我们不需要发明新的。

All Quiet on the Currency Front

2013-06-12 15:44

The term “currency wars” is a catchy way of saying “competitive devaluation.” In the wake of the sharp fall in the value of the yen over the last six months, owing to the monetary component of Japan’s efforts to jump-start its economy, the issue is expected to feature prominently on the agenda at the G-8’s upcoming summit in Northern Ireland. But should it?

According to the International Monetary Fund, competitive devaluation occurs when countries are “manipulating exchange rates…to gain an unfair competitive advantage over other members…” But a key point is often missed when the term “currency wars” has been applied to monetary expansion by the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, and other central banks in recent years.The impact of monetary stimulus on a country’s trade balance – and hence on demand for trading partners’ goods – is ambiguous: the expenditure-switching effect when the exchange rate responds is counteracted by the expenditure-increasing effect of expansion. Restored income growth means more imports from other countries.

“Currency wars” is a more apt description when countries intervene to push down their currencies in deliberate attempts to help their trade balances. But national authorities will and should pursue economic policies that are primarily in their own countries’ interests. International cooperation can be fruitful; but there is little point attempting it if the nature of the spillover effects is not relatively clear to all. Everyone agrees, for example, that spillovers from pollution or tariffs are negative, not positive, externalities. But the case is not as obvious in the case of monetary policy.

For example, if unemployment is high and inflation low in the United States, the Fed will naturally ease monetary policy, particularly via low interest rates. If Brazil is in danger of overheating, its central bank will naturally tighten policy, particularly via high interest rates. It is also natural that capital will flow from north to south as a result, causing the Brazilian real to appreciate against the dollar. That is the beauty of floating exchange rates: both countries can choose their own appropriate policies.

Given that the two countries’ are in different cyclical positions, such exchange-rate movements signal that the international economic system is working properly. Although the stronger real will help US exporters (other things being equal) and hurt those in Brazil; rather, they are precisely the point. If the goal is to stimulate demand for US goods and dampen demand for Brazilian goods, why shouldn’t exporters in both countries share in that process?

A more serious dilemma arises if one of the countries is targeting or even fixing the exchange rate, as many Latin American governments did to kill off high inflation in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Such a country will not necessarily want to abandon a proven exchange-rate regime at the first sign of trouble. Capital controls and sterilization of reserve flows might help to delay the adjustment, but a persistent one-directional capital flow will eventually force the fixed-exchange-rate country to allow either its exchange rate or its money supply to adjust.

True, in recent years, a wide array of countries has indicated a preference for weaker currencies as a means of improving their trade balances. It is also true, by definition, that not everyone can depreciate or improve their trade balance at the same time. But that does not necessarily mean that depreciators are guilty of violating any agreements or norms, especially if they have merely maintained a pre-existing exchange-rate regime.

Uncoordinated monetary expansion does not even necessarily leave the world in a worse equilibrium. Barry Eichengreen and Jeffrey Sachs have persuasively argued this for the 1930’s (the opposite of the conventional wisdom regarding beggar-thy-neighbor competitive devaluations). Although all countries could not improve their trade balances simultaneously, when they devalued against gold, they succeeded in raising the price of gold, thereby increasing the real value of the global money supply – exactly what a world in depression needed.

The same applies today. Brazil’s finance minister, Guido Mantega, coined the term “currency wars” in response to American efforts to enlist Brazil and other competitors of China in a campaign for a stronger renminbi. But the accusation against the US is especially misplaced. US monetary expansion contributed to global monetary expansion at a time when, on average, it was needed. US authorities have not intervened in the foreign-exchange market or talked down the dollar, and currency depreciation was not the Fed’s goal when deciding to implement its quantitative-easing policy.

Japan comes a little closer to qualifying as a currency warrior, because members of Shinzo Abe’s government were initially foolish enough to mention yen depreciation as an explicit goal.

Few countries accused of participating in a currency war have undertaken discrete devaluations in recent years or acted to weaken their currencies by switching their exchange-rate regimes. These are the sorts of deliberate policy changes connoted by a term like “manipulation.” Switzerland perhaps comes the closest. But the franc was so strong, even at the new rate set in September 2011, that no one can accuse the Swiss National Bank of unfair undervaluation.

The world has enough serious disputes as it is. We do not need to invent new ones.

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