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“逐底”竞赛,美元仍是赢家

“逐底”竞赛,美元仍是赢家

Colin Barr 2011年03月17日
美元有多疲弱?即便是在美国一大贸易伙伴国遭受自然灾害重创之时,美元也涨不上去。

美元走势仍旧疲软

    继上周五日本遭遇8.9级地震和毁灭性的海啸袭击后,本周一投资者纷纷逃离日本股市,当地股指重挫6%。这次日本历史上损失最惨重的大地震重创当地电力基础设施,未来庞大的重建支出将使早已捉襟见肘的政府预算雪上加霜。

    过去一年,美元兑日元跌幅达10%,你或许以为此次(日本大地震后)美元会出现反弹,毕竟日本的财政状况看上去可能会比美国还要糟。

    但美元未现振作。周一交易时段,美元走势平平,美元/日元仅比1995年创下的历史低点高出约2日元。1995年美元/日元创下历史低点,正是发生在历史上同样惨烈的自然灾难——阪神或称神户大地震震后3个月。

    究竟什么才能让美元上涨?鉴于美国经济复苏迹象喜忧参半,而美联储承诺将长期维持接近零利率水平,美元要上涨看来很难。

    “仅仅由于日本遭受了重大自然灾害,并不意味着日元会贬值,”野村证券(Nomura Securities )分析师上周日在发送给客户的报告中指出。

    日元汇率能保持高位的一个原因是保险公司为支付索赔,将资金汇回日本。野村证券估计未来几个月此类资金汇回将达到80-110亿美元——数额庞大,但外汇策略师珍斯•诺德韦格 认为,这样的数额并不“足以左右日元整体资金流格局”。

    诺德韦格和野村证券的其他分析师还指出,未来几个月对日元资金流影响更大的一个因素可能是避险意识抬头,投资者在经历了两年的股市反弹后已变得更加谨慎。

    如果日元汇率上升至1995年创下的历史高点,日本央行很可能会在外汇市场卖出日元、买入美元,以便将汇率维持在不会过度抑制国内经济增长的水平。这种干预通常会使其他央行不快,但迫于形势,他们也只能苦笑了之。

    "短期内,日元的强势走势可能得到强化,但我们认为现如今当局干预的可能性比震前更高了,”野村证券的泰库克•塔纳卡写道,“假如出现负面的连锁反应,即地震损害导致日元进一步走强,日本当局出手阻止日元升值可能情有可原。”

    当然,美元/日元的积弱走势并非孤立现象。过去十年,贸易加权的美元指数跌幅超过1/3。此外,虽然葡萄牙是否需要救助仍是个问题,但欧元/美元仍徘徊于52周高点附近。

    美国经济增速将快于欧洲和日本的预期,目前看来对美元似乎毫无助益。

    不过,Tanaka和其他分析师们预计,随着全球复苏力度增强,以及美联储逐步取消对经济的支持性举措,未来几年日元/美元有望从80附近的高点降回至90附近。但正如过去几天所示,如今哪怕是最基本的预测也面临很大风险。

    Investors fled Japanese stocks Monday, sending market indexes down 6%, in the wake of Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake and a devastating tsunami. Japan's costliest quake ever left power infrastructure in tatters, promising that an already stretched government budget will be strained further by massive rebuilding costs.

    You'd think that might be a recipe for a snapback rally in the dollar, which has lost 10% against the yen over the past year -- at a time when Japan's fiscal picture has if anything come to look even more desolate than ours.

    Yet the dollar failed to snap out of its torpor. The U.S. currency was flat in trading Monday, leaving it just 2 yen or so from its all-time low against the yen – a record that was set in 1995, three months after a comparably costly disaster, the Great Hanshin or Kobe earthquake.

    Just what has to happen to get the dollar to rise? With the U.S. recovery sending mixed signals and the Federal Reserve pledging to hold interest rates near zero for a long time, the bar seems to be set pretty high.

    "Just because Japan has suffered substantial damages does not mean that the yen will weaken," analysts at Nomura Securities wrote in a note to clients Sunday.

    Part of what's keeping the yen high is the flow of funds back into Japan for the payment of insurance claims. Nomura estimates these at $8 billion to $11 billion over coming months – a substantial sum but one that foreign exchange strategist Jens Nordvig says is not "sufficient to dominate the overall yen flow picture."

    He and others at Nomura say a bigger factor driving fund flows into the yen in coming months could be a rise in risk aversion, as investors take a more cautious stance following a two-year-long stock market rally.

    If the yen rises to challenge the 1995 high, the Bank of Japan might well start selling yen and buying dollars in foreign exchange markets, in a bid to keep the exchange rate at a level that doesn't choke off too much domestic growth. This is not usually a move that's apt to make other central bankers happy, but they will grin and bear it given the circumstances.

    "Over the short term, the strong yen bias could increase, but we think authorities are more likely now than before the earthquake to intervene," Nomura's Taisuke Tanaka writes. "If a negative chain reaction were to occur in which the damages from the earthquake lead to a further strengthening of the yen, Japanese authorities would likely be justified in taking action to stem the yen's appreciation."

    The dollar's weakness against the yen is anything but isolated, of course. The trade-weighted dollar index is down by more than a third over the past decade, and the euro continues to trade near a 52-week high in spite of questions about whether Portugal will need a bailout.

    The notion that the U.S. economy will outgrow Europe and Japan doesn't seem to count for much at the moment.

    That said, Tanaka and others expect to see the yen pull back from its highs near 80 to the dollar to trader nearer 90 over coming years, as the global recovery gains strength and the Fed slowly removes its support for the economy. But as the past few days have shown, there are an awful lot of risks looming over even the most basic forecast nowadays.

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