《经济学人》:只要人民高兴
日期:2011-08-31 11:35

(单词翻译:单击)

Gilts as a safe haven for investors
金边债券,投资者的安全港

Whatever floats your boat
只要人民高兴

Long-term interest rates are mercifully low, despite Britain’s huge budget deficit
英国预算赤字再高,低利率也会始终如一

A FORMER chairman of the Federal Reserve, Paul Volcker, once compared financial markets to a sea that was prone to occasional storms. It was better, he said, to be on a big ship when the waters got choppy. But recent events have turned this logic on its head. Market squalls have tossed some of the bigger vessels in the euro-zone flotilla, including Italy and Spain. Nervous investors are jumping instead into some of Europe’s outlying bond markets, such as Sweden, Denmark—and Britain. Although an unlikely haven because of its weak economy, huge private debts, high inflation and swollen deficit, Britain’s ten-year bond yield—ie, the price the Treasury must pay to borrow money for a decade—fell to a record low of 2.2% this month.

前美联储主席保罗•沃尔克曾经把金融市场比作随时可能暴风骤雨的汪洋大海,说在风起云涌的大海中,还是大船比较保险。可近期发生的种种却完全颠覆了他的说法。市场风暴将欧元区舰队中包括意大利,西班牙在内的大型战舰折磨的破败不堪。犹如惊弓之鸟的投资者们纷纷转向欧洲一些外缘债券市场,如瑞典,丹麦,英国。经济疲软,私人债务高企,高通胀和肿胀的赤字,让英国不再是那么安全的避难所,但英国十年期债券收益率,也就是国家需支付借债十年以来的利息的占本息总价格的百分比,已经在这个月下降至2.2%,创史上新低。

Plunging bond yields are not grounds for great cheer. In part, they reflect a fearful retreat from riskier equities and an expectation that low interest rates as a medicine for a sick global economy will be around for a while. But the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, has been quick to claim that the drop in the government’s borrowing costs indicates the markets’ confidence in his deficit-reduction plan.

债券收益率下降,可别高兴的太早。从某种程度上说,这是人们纷纷从高风险股撤退的危险征兆,也说明希望以低利率解决全球经济萎靡的呼声将会持续一段时间。但是财政大臣乔治•奥斯本已迅速声明政府借贷成本的下降表示的是市场对政府削减赤字计划的信心。

There is something to this. In early 2010, even as the euro’s debt crisis was building, Britain’s bond yields were on a par with those of Spain, which has a similarly large budget deficit but smaller public debt. Their paths have since diverged (see chart below). Bond markets, it seems, have taken a more clement view of Britain than of Spain, even though GDP has risen by only 0.7% in the past year in both countries. Mr Osborne’s plan, first unveiled in June 2010, has helped distance Britain from fiscal troubles in the euro zone. It may, of course, simply be that the fetters of euro membership alarm investors more than red ink.

有这样一种说法。早在2010年,即使是在欧元债务危机已经爆发的情况下,英国债券收益率与西班牙仍是持平,不过之后两国收益率的差异也日益明显;当时英国与西班牙拥有同样的巨额预算赤字,但西班牙的国债规模较小。尽管两国去年的GDP增长都只有7%,可债券市场对英国的态度似乎要比西班牙更温和。奥斯本先生在2010年7月首次公开的计划使得英国规避了欧元区的财务纠葛。也许简单来说欧元对于其成员的束缚,比起英国的财政赤字,是让投资者更为担忧的对象。

Yet it would be a mistake to put too much trust in that interpretation. Britain is still an outlier in terms of its budget deficit, which was a touch below 10% of GDP in the financial year ending in April. Only America, Greece and Ireland had bigger deficit ratios last year. Two of those have lost the faith of markets; America will be the first port of call for anxious investors for as long as it remains the world’s main reserve currency. Britain is adding to its public-debt burden at a faster rate than most others and bond markets can turn quickly, so it is prudent to shrink the deficit towards the rich-world norm. That said, credibility won by this year’s fiscal tightening may buy the space to cut more slowly in future, if the economy stays weak.

然而如果对这种解释过分信任,也是错。在预算赤字方面,英国仍然是个异类,在截止于四月的财政年度中,英国的预算赤字,下触GDP的10%以下。去年只有美国,希腊,爱尔兰的赤字率较高。希腊和爱尔兰已经失去了市场信任;只要美元依然是世界主要货币储备,美国便是那些不安投资者的首选安全港。英国的债务负担正以较他国更快的速度增长,债券市场也随时可能风云突变。因此英国在削减赤字方面会一再小心以达到富国标准。那就是说,如果经济继续疲软,由今年的财政紧缩换取的市场信任可能会给以后的逐步减赤获得空间。

The job of sparking the economy to life thus falls to the Bank of England. It has kept interest rates at a low of 0.5% and might yet launch another round of “quantitative easing” (creating money to buy government bonds and other securities) if the euro crisis turns even nastier. But the bank’s loose-money stance is awkward given that inflation was 4.4% in July and has exceeded the 2% target for most of the past four years.

这样,经济复苏的任务就落在了英国央行的头上。英国央行已经将利率保持在0.5%的历史低位,甚至可能会在欧债危机继续恶化的时候采取新一轮量化宽松政策(即凭空造钱去购买政府债券和其他证券) 。可是英国在7月份的通胀率为4.4%,已然超过了英国央行过去四年2%的通胀目标,这使银行宽松的货币政策显得笨拙与不合时宜。

One interpretation of the bank’s policy is to think of it as setting interest rates that allow nominal GDP growth (ie, growth in the real economy plus inflation) at a rate that would be consistent with its inflation target, absent unexpected price shocks such as a sudden rise in the cost of oil (see Economics focus). On that basis, policy has not been unduly slack: the growth rate of nominal GDP is in line with its average rate in recent years (see chart). The bad news for Britain is that too much of this has been inflation—because of high oil prices, a weak pound and increased VAT—and too little from real growth.

对量化宽松政策的一种解释是认为该政策的实施如同设定了一种银行利率。这种利率使得名义GDP增长率(包含通胀因素的GDP增长)与通胀目标保持一致,并排除意外的价格冲击如原油价格上涨的影响 (参见经济聚焦)。在此基础上的政策就不会过度宽松:名义国民生产总值的增长率与近年来的平均汇率相一致(见图表)。但不利的是,在高油价,英镑疲软和增值税上调的情况下,过度的量化宽松政策会导致严重的通货膨胀,而过于保守也会难以得到真正的经济增长。

A budget tightening plus loose money is the right way to insure against risks. Britain’s household debt is among the world’s highest as a share of income; most of it is charged at variable interest rates and thus linked to the borrowing costs set by the Bank of England. Even a small rise in interest rates would hurt borrowers, increase bad debts and perhaps even spur fire-sales of homes. A loss of a triple-A bond rating would be more painful for Britain than for most countries, because the state stands behind an oversized banking sector. Britain must avoid the spiral that afflicts some euro-zone countries, in which sovereign-debt fears lead to worries about bank solvency, raise banks’ funding costs, slow the economy and hurt tax revenue.

预算削减加上货币宽松是可以规避风险的。英国的占收入部分家庭负债达世界最高水平。他们中的大多数用的是可变利率贷款,这也因此与央行的借贷成本有关系。即使微微调高利率也可能会给借款人造成损失,增加坏账,甚至可能导致借款人变卖房产。若英国失掉AAA主权信用评级,他会比其他国家更惨,因为英国国内庞大的银行机构必须靠国家的良好信用正常运转。英国必须规避像其他一些欧元区国家的风险升级,一旦风险升级,市场对国债的恐慌必将导致其对银行偿债能力的担忧,从而使银行融资成本增加,经济增长受阻,税收压力增加。

In a healthier economy, low bond yields would normally be a catalyst for investment by companies, as yields on gilts, as British government bonds are known, are a benchmark for the cost of long-term commercial borrowing. Alas, many firms are already sitting on cash they seem unwilling to spend. Thus the main benefit of low yields is to the public finances. Britain plans to issue £169 billion ($277 billion) of bonds this year to cover the deficit, and to pay off £49 billion of debt that is coming due. Lower interest costs will make cutting the deficit a little easier in future years. That is a small mercy. A bigger one is that investors still trust gilts, despite Britain’s many problems.

在相对健康的经济环境里,低债券收益率通常会刺激企业投资,其中金边债券就是我们熟知的英国债券,它的收益率,就是长期商业借贷资本的基准。哎,可是太多的公司都是守财奴。也因此低收益率的主要受益者便是公共财政。英国今年计划发行价值1690亿英镑(折合美元2770亿的债券来弥补亏空,并付清即将到期的490亿英镑的债务。低利息成本将会使以后削减赤字更加容易。这(对英国经济来说)都只是小恩小惠,真正令人感恩戴德的便是那些无论英国有多少问题,都依然是金边债券忠实粉丝的投资者们。

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重点单词
  • catalystn. 催化剂,刺激因素
  • claimn. 要求,要求权;主张,断言,声称;要求物 vt. 要
  • reserven. 预备品,贮存,候补 n. 克制,含蓄 vt. 保留
  • decaden. 十年
  • mercyn. 怜悯,宽恕,仁慈,恩惠 adj. 仁慈的,宽
  • reflectv. 反映,反射,归咎
  • globaladj. 全球性的,全世界的,球状的,全局的
  • quantitativeadj. 数量的,定量的
  • solvencyn. 偿付能力,溶解力
  • insurevt. 保险,确保 vi. 买保险