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商业 - 金融

美元下跌凶险

Colin Barr 2011年05月03日

给比尔•格罗斯捎个信:你的想法是对的,但交易是错的。

 

不会再有了吗?

    这是上周美国银行美林(Bank of America Merrill Lynch)的一份报告所传递出的信息。报告建议,要从愚蠢而又缺乏自制的美国财政政策中赚钱,应押注美元下跌——而不是像格罗斯的Pimco Total Return基金那样大量抛售美国国债。

    美国银行美林的利率策略师大卫•吴表示,尽管目前美元指数徘徊于3年低点,尽管欧元已渐渐逼近1.50美元(上次达到这一水平是在2008年巅峰时期),但有迹象表明,市场可能低估了未来几个月美元大幅下挫的风险。

    他说,华盛顿上演的荒诞剧加大了投资者抛售美元的可能性,因为美国联邦政府显然还没有准备好要戒掉借债支出之瘾。

    在我们的风险情境中,财政层面无所改进将加大爆发财政危机以及美联储(Fed)成为最后买家的可能性。这将加速美元作为全球储备货币的地位下降,导致美元无序下跌。

    不过,这不是吴的预期。他信任蒂姆•盖特纳,他说美国共和党人和民主党人将弥合很多分歧,在7月份美国政府关门前提高负债上限;双方可能还会就一些方案达成一致,展现至少是“醉酒水手”的支出自律。

    相应地,吴预计美元/欧元将反弹,欧元区有自己的问题,年中欧元可能跌至1.30美元。

    但政客们日日的唇枪舌战仍让市场不安,吴警告这可能引发对美国预算状况的极度担忧。

    虽然高盛(Goldman)和其他地方的经济学家们一直宽慰我们,私营部门的弱势复苏势头正在得到改善,但吴指出这股复苏势头“高度依赖扩张性财政政策,2008年底以来美国居民的年化可支配收入增加8,500亿美元,其中有一半是源于美国家庭获得的社会福利净增。”

    他指出,过去十年,社会净福利——即救济、食品券、失业保险和医保等政府支出与纳税人向这些账户的缴款差额——占居民收入比重已提高了一倍多,最近达到12%。这也是过去40年来的最高值。

    与此同时,美国是唯一一个未遭遇地震、核辐射等大灾难但财政赤字要持续扩大的主要国家。吴写到,由于全球经济中其他吱吱作响的齿轮,市场未能集中关注这个问题——但迟早,他们会意识到这一点。

    虽然格罗斯等人不断告诉我们债市肯定会出大事,吴的看法正好相反。他的理由是美联储结束购买美国国债,将推高美国国债的风险溢价——但美国国债的名义收益率可能不会大幅上升,因为投资者终于意识到每个人都指望的今年经济增长4%可能不会实现。

    而且,如果美国经济走弱,美国国债的海外需求低迷,美联储被迫再度买入国债,撤离美元的步伐肯定会加快。目前这只是一种可能,但未来在市场有限的注意力集中时间内可能成为焦点,市场的注意力集中时间甚至可能短于美国国会。

    “金融市场的多任务处理能力较差,”吴写到。随大流吧。

    That's the implication of a note out this week from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. It advises clients that the way to make money on rampant U.S. fiscal stupidity is to bet against the swooning dollar -- not on a massive selloff in government bonds, a la Gross' Pimco Total Return fund.

    Rates strategist David Woo says that even with the dollar index trading at a three-year low and the euro creeping up on $1.50 – a level also last seen in that banner year of 2008 – there are signs that markets are underestimating the risk that the dollar could swing sharply lower in coming months.

    He says the theater of the absurd playing out in Washington makes it likelier that investors will dump the dollar as it becomes apparent that progress on a fix to our national spending addiction is not in train.

    In our risk scenario, little progress on the fiscal front raises the probability of a fiscal crisis and the odds that the Fed becomes the buyer of the last resort. This would accelerate the process of the USD's demise as the global reserve currency and cause it to decline in a disorderly manner.

    This is not what Woo expects to happen, mind you. He believes Tim Geithner when he says Republicans and Democrats will patch over their many differences long enough to raise the debt ceiling before the government goes splat in July, and perhaps to agree on some sort of plan to impose on Congress at least the spending discipline of drunken sailors.

    Accordingly, he forecasts that the dollar will bounce back against the euro, whose users have problems of their own, and rise to $1.30 against the euro by midyear.

    But the sound of political gunfire being exchanged daily is not reassuring to markets, which Woo warns will eventually catch on to the full horror of the U.S. budget position.

    While economists at Goldman and elsewhere keep assuring us that a weak private sector recovery is gaining steam, Woo notes that it "has been so dependent on expansionary fiscal policy that as much as half of the $850bn increase in annualized US household disposable income since the end of 2008 was due to increased net social benefits to households."

    Over the past decade, he notes, the share of household income coming from net social benefits – the difference between government payouts on things like welfare, food stamps, unemployment insurance and healthcare, and the amount taxpayers pay into those programs – has more than doubled to a recent 12%. That is by far the highest number in the past 40 years.

    Meanwhile, the United States is the only major nation that hasn't recently been hit by a massive earthquake and nuclear catastrophe to increase its fiscal deficit from last year. The markets have failed to zero in on this problem, he writes, because of all the other squeaky wheels in the global economy -- but sooner or later, latch on they will.

    While the likes of Gross keep telling us this car wreck would surely play out in the bond market, Woo takes the opposite tack. He reasons that the end of Fed bond purchases will drive up the risk premium on Treasury securities -- yet nominal Treasury yields may not rise substantially as investors belatedly come around to the observation that the 4% growth everyone was hoping for this year is not going to arrive.

    And if the Fed is forced by a weakening economy and soft overseas demand for Treasuries to resume bond purchases, the flight from the dollar would surely accelerate. This is merely a risk for now, but it could come to dominate the market's attention span, which if anything is possibly even shorter than Congress' own.

    "Financial markets are poor multi-taskers," Woo writes. Join the crowd.

 

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