《经济学人》:待重头收拾旧山河
日期:2011-09-13 10:57

(单词翻译:单击)

The economy’s prospects
经济前景

Waiting for the earth to open
待重头收拾旧山河

The usual accelerators of recession are absent—but so are the brakes
经济不再像往常般加速下滑——而是已经减速

Aug 27th 2011 | WASHINGTON, DC | from the Economist print edition

HOURS after an earthquake struck America’s east coast on August 23rd, office workers were still milling around the streets of Washington, DC and New York (above), nervously waiting for aftershocks. A similar watch over the economy is now under way. The earthquake that ripped through the American economy from 2007 to 2009 is still generating tremors. The latest may be the strongest yet. Since late July stock markets in America and round the world have nosedived, fearful that America is falling back into recession and that Europe’s debt crisis will drag down its banks.
在美国东海岸8月23日的地震之后数个小时,上班族们仍在华盛顿和纽约(见上图)的街道上游荡着,惴惴不安地等待着下次余震。美国经济也正出现类似的情况。跨经2007年到2009年的美国经济大地震破坏其经济体系,并不断产生余震。或许,最后的才是最强的。自7月下旬美国股市和全球股市都遭受重创,人们担心美国经济衰退,同时也害怕欧洲的债务危机拖垮银行。

America’s economy is certainly weak. It grew at an annualised rate of just 0.4% in the first quarter and 1.3% in the second. Future revisions may push both numbers into negative territory: the economy would have already double-dipped.
美国经济确实已经很衰弱了。第一季度的经济增长只有0.4%,而第二季度则为1.3%。以后的计算修正或许会让这两个数字变为负值:美国经济已经出现二次探底。

Much of that weakness may be traced to the run-up in oil prices that followed the Libyan uprising and to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which disrupted supply chains. As both shocks receded, economic activity turned up. An index of economic reports compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago suggests that the economy grew in July (see chart 1), though it may since have flagged again.
经济的虚弱之处大部分应归咎于原油价格的急剧增长,这是因为在利比亚起义和日本地震海啸之后,原油的供应链遭到了破坏。在这两大冲击都有所减弱后,经济活动得到了喘息之机。在芝加哥联邦储备银行编纂的一份经济报告指数显示,美国经济在7月份产生正增长(见表1),虽然它后来可能会再次陷入低迷。

Economists have long speculated that weak growth of this sort is like an aircraft’s “stall speed”, below which it risks falling out of the sky. A paper by Jeremy Nalewaik of the Federal Reserve has found that since 1978, whenever the economy has grown less than 1% in a given quarter, a recession has soon followed half to two-thirds of the time. (The results depend on whether growth is measured by GDP or its alternative, gross domestic income).
经济学家们推测,这种类型的弱势增长就好像飞机的“失速速度”,一旦低于这个临界点,那么就有可能从空中坠落。美联储的Jeremy Nalewaik撰文写道,自1978年以来,无论何时只要某季度的经济增长率低于1%,那么很快地,在其后的一半或者三分之二的时间里就会处于衰退之中。(其时间取决于经济增长是用国内生产总值,还是用国内总收入来衡量。)

That is not as helpful as it sounds. Aircraft flying slowly do sometimes crash but, more often, they land. Slow-growing economies that fall into recession are typically pushed, as some shock forces a pre-existing imbalance to tip them over.
这并非像听起来那样有效。飞机飞的过慢时或许会坠毁,但更多的时候它们可以选择着陆。而陷入不景气的缓慢经济却往往处于困境之中,因为某些打击使得已失衡的部分倾覆整个经济体系。

Such imbalances are hard to find now in America. Housing, cars and business inventories, the three most volatile components of GDP, usually accelerate the contraction that brings recession. None looks especially stretched. Quite the opposite: house-construction has never climbed off the bottom, and now makes up just 2.4% of GDP, less than half its historical average (see chart 2). Mike Gorman, a builder in northern Virginia, says that his business has collapsed over the past three years. “We went from 40 employees to one part-timer. We’re building just a house or two here or there. It’s been… really, really quiet.” Car production has rebounded, but to a level well below its typical share of GDP. The ratio of business inventories to sales, which soared during the recession, is now back to normal.
这样的不安定因素在美国已经很难找到。住房,汽车和商业库存,这国内生产总值的三大最不稳定成分,通常会加速导致衰退的通货紧缩。没有哪家能脱身事外。恰恰相反:住房建设从未脱离底部进入上升,并且现在仅占GDP的2.4%,低于历史平均水平的一半(见表2)。Mike Gorman,北弗吉尼亚州的一个建造商,说道他的生意在过去的三年里遭受重挫。“我们原来有40名雇员,而现在只有一个兼职人员。我们只是零散地盖了一两栋房子。这……真的,真的太萧条了。”汽车产量业已回升,但只是处于GDP的通常份额标准之下。商业存货销售比在经济衰退期间飙升,而现在也已经回跌到正常水平。

The shock that pushes the economy over the edge often originates in financial markets. Although stock prices have plummeted, credit is relatively easy to come by. Spreads on corporate bonds are normal, short-term interest rates are deeply negative when adjusted for inflation, and the Fed’s latest survey has found banks more anxious to lend, “the exact opposite of lending conditions in the run-up to recession,” notes Kevin Logan of HSBC.
将经济推向悬崖边缘的冲击通常来源于金融市场。虽然股市一路暴跌,贷款却唾手可得。公司债券的信贷利差维持正常,而短期利率再算上通胀率影响后变为负值,而美联储最近调查表明银行更加急于放贷,“和衰退前夕的放贷环境恰恰相反,”汇丰银行的Kevin Logan随手记道。

Although the absence of obvious imbalances or financial strains does not eliminate the risk of recession in America, it does militate against a long, deep downturn. Indeed, it may be hard for most people to distinguish a shallow recession from lacklustre growth.
尽管缺少明显的经济不平衡和资金紧张的迹象,这也并不能消除美国会爆发经济衰退的风险,但是,这的确会对防止美国进入持久的大幅度的经济下滑产生影响。事实上,对于大多数人们来说,区分平淡无奇的增长和不明显的衰退是很困难的。

A recession indicator compiled by Macroeconomic Advisers, a consultancy, from (among other things) stock prices, the real short-term interest rate, credit spreads, oil prices and the yield curve—the difference between short- and long-term rates—suggests that a recession is unlikely in the next 12 months, even when the yield curve, whose behaviour has been distorted by Federal Reserve policy, is excluded.
宏观经济咨询公司编写了一项经济衰退的指标,从(多方面)股价,不动产短期利率,信用差价,油价以及收率曲线——短期与长期利率不同——可以看出,在接下来的一年中,经济衰退可能性不大,即使排除了受到美联储政策影响的收益曲线,衰退仍旧不会发生。

But Joel Prakken, the firm’s chairman, has limited confidence in that forecast. The historical data used to predict recessions in the past are less useful if a new shock cannot be offset with fiscal and monetary policy. Japan’s collapse back into recession in 1998 is a cautionary tale. The government raised the consumption tax in April 1997 in an attempt to rein in the rising debt. Two major shocks then aggravated that fiscal restraint: the Asian financial crisis, which pummelled exports, and the collapse of several big financial institutions. With interest rates already at 0.5%, monetary policy could not cushion the blow.
但是宏观咨询公司的董事长Joel Prakken对预测信心有限。如果一场新的冲击不能用财政和货币政策来抵消的话,预测过去衰退所用的历史数据现在的效用就会大大减少。日本在1998年的经济崩溃是一个劝谕。日本政府在1997年4月提升了消费税,试图控制不断增长的负债。两大冲击加重了财政紧缩的局面:重创其出口的亚洲金融危机和几家大型金融机构的倒闭。在利率已经达到0.5%的低点时,货币政策也无法和缓这种紧张局势。

Whether recession is avoided will therefore depend heavily on luck and the wisdom of policymakers. The Fed is not about to tighten monetary policy; indeed, the markets are searching for signs from Ben Bernanke, the chairman, that it may loosen policy through buying more bonds or changing the mix of its bond holdings, though they are likely to be disappointed. However, fiscal policy is likely to tighten as several fiscal measures expire, knocking some 2% off GDP from January onwards. In a speech next month President Barack Obama plans to challenge the special congressional committee now looking for $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts to supply, at the same time, some near-term fiscal stimulus. Republicans are unreceptive. Eric Cantor, their leader in the House of Representatives, recently warned against “discussions of new stimulus spending with money that we simply do not have.”
是否避免衰退因此将十分取决于运气和政策制定者的聪明才智。美联储不可能收紧货币政策;事实上,市场正在搜寻来自于美联储主席Ben Bernanke的,有关于美联储将通过买入更多债券或者改变所持债券组合的方式来放松政策的信号,然而他们很可能会失望。然而,财政政策可能会因为几项财政措施的到期而收紧,从而损失了一月以来2%的国内生产总值。在一场演讲中,奥巴马打算9月对特殊国家委员会发起挑战,而与此同时,他正在削减15亿美元赤字以实现财政刺激。共和党对此表示不会接受。众议院领袖Eric Cantor最近对"关于这种拆东墙补西墙的做法的讨论”表示了警告。

The brinkmanship that preceded the increase in the debt ceiling on August 2nd, the downgrade to America’s credit rating and the fiscal turbulence in Europe, are the sorts of things that could produce a self-fulfilling collapse in confidence. Steve Alloy, another Virginia builder, recalls how the talk of America defaulting deterred many of his customers. Then, the day after default was averted, five abruptly bought houses. Such stories may serve to concentrate minds in Congress and bring about a more rational fiscal outcome.
在8月2日增加债务限额前的紧急政策,美国的信用等级降级以及欧洲财政动乱,都可视为导致自我信心崩溃的同类事件。另一个弗吉尼亚州建筑商Steve Alloy则回想起有关美国违约的谈论使得他许多客户打消念头。然后,债务违约危机解除的第二天,有5个人于是突然购买了房屋。建筑商的故事应该要告诉国会里的那帮人,这样他们才会更集中自己的精神和才智,然后为全美的经济衰退局面带来一个更合理的财政处理结果。

Mr Cantor says constituents in his Virginia district have complained that political brinkmanship has pushed the economy to the edge of disaster. Coincidentally, they were also living next to the epicentre of the earthquake. Having lived through terrestrial upheavals, they have no appetite for the economic equivalent.
Cantor先生说,在弗吉尼亚地区的人抱怨政治性的紧急政策将美国经济推向了灾难的边缘。巧合的是,他们生活的地方也靠近地震震中区域。他们在地壳巨变中生还下来,却已无力再去面对经济上的地震。

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重点单词
  • turbulence动荡 n. 喧嚣,狂暴,骚乱,湍流
  • offsetn. 抵销,支派,平版印刷,弯管,[计]偏移量 vt.
  • terrestrialn. 地球上的人 adj. 地球的,地上的
  • loosenvt. 放松,松开,解除(便秘等),放宽 vi. 变松,
  • volatileadj. 挥发性的,反复无常的,易变的,易爆的 n. 挥
  • negativeadj. 否定的,负的,消极的 n. 底片,负数,否定
  • stockn. 存货,储备; 树干; 血统; 股份; 家畜 adj
  • distortedadj. 歪曲的;受到曲解的 v. 扭曲(distort
  • curven. 曲线,弯曲,弧线,弯曲物 vt. 使...弯
  • imbalancen. 不平衡,失调