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商业 - 金融

为何油价很快就会再度飙升

Collin Barr 2011年05月25日

距离下次油价大涨还有多久?

涨啊涨

    随着对中东动荡爆发的担忧减弱,能源价格呈现回落。但高盛(Goldman Sachs)经济学家们预言,持续的全球需求、疲弱的供应增长以及宽松的货币环境意味着下一轮破坏式的油价上涨可能为时不远。

    高盛经济学家詹•哈祖斯和安德鲁•蒂尔顿在上周末致客户的一份报告中写道,2012年底油价可能再度飙升。他们认为,如果油价不涨(或者不急剧上涨),龟速般的全球石油供应增长——高盛预计年均增长1%左右——难以维持严重依赖石油能源的全球经济增长。

    因此,别太习惯于每加仑汽油仅3美元的日子。很快油价就会上涨,原因是原油供应持续紧张,以及未来几年美联储(Federal Reserve) 将保持的宽松货币政策。

    “石油稀缺性加剧的根本状况没有改变,我们的大宗商品策略师们估计现有的油价预测值,即2012年底布伦特原油每桶120美元的预测值具有显著的上行风险,”哈祖斯和蒂尔顿写道,“因此,石油稀缺性加剧以及油价上涨对经济活动的影响仍是我们的首要担忧。”

    令油价上涨几乎无可避免的是美国的高失业率。目前官方失业率为9%,但《伯恩斯坦调查》(Bernstein Research)的策略师瓦迪姆•兹洛特尼科夫指出,如果考虑到低劳动力参与率[经济活动人口(包括就业者和失业者)占劳动年龄人口的比率,是用来衡量人们参与经济活动状况的指标——译注],失业率为13%的可能性更大。今年劳动力参与率已降至1985年以来的新低。

    哈祖斯和蒂尔顿在报告中预测,高失业率和低通胀将使美国联邦基金利率保持在零附近直至明年年底或更久。这应有助于推动失业率缓慢接近约6%的长期均值——但代价是美元进一步贬值,全球需求进一步上升,最终油价大涨。

    因此,已导致纽约和欧洲(布伦特)原油价格分别跌至100美元和112美元左右的抛盘有可能在2011年大多数时候继续。但不会一直持续下去,高盛警告称。

    “让劳动力市场和石油市场都达到均衡的唯一办法,可能是实际油价进一步上涨,”高盛的经济学家们写道,“可以断定油价上涨将使原有勘探开采更具吸引力,从而增加石油供应,而能源利用效率的提高会降低石油需求。”

    他们还说,这样的政策取舍结果往往被认为导致收入不公平地从穷人向富人转移。高盛经济学家们承认,美国收入最低的1/5人群其汽油支出占比,相比收入最高的1/5人群高出3.5%-4.6%。

    但他们也指出,收入最低人群的损失能被美联储宽松政策带来的就业创造效应所抵消,这“能让处于收入分配低端的家庭实际收入有显著增加”。

    虽然可能没人会欢迎油价上涨,但哈祖斯和蒂尔顿指出,美国显然有办法将该趋势转化为有利因素,即提高能源消费税。

    这样做的话,美国政府不仅能(通过提高油价)抑制消费,还能增加联邦收入(现如今这可能还能提振一些信心,正如你可能已经看到的那样),而牺牲的则主要是至多也就是似友实敌的外国政府的利益。不过,这样做虽然有上述积极意义,但要在现届美国国会中看到曙光,概率可能和汽油价格重返1美元/加仑一样渺茫。

    Energy prices have been coming down this spring as fears of a Middle East blowup fade. But persistent global demand, tepid supply growth and easy money mean it may not be long till the next damaging spike, Goldman Sachs economists say.

    Oil prices could surge again by the end of 2012, economists Jan Hatzius and Andrew Tilton wrote in a note to clients this past weekend. They say the snail-like pace of global oil supply expansion – which Goldman projects at 1% or so annually – can't keep a petroleum-addicted world economy rolling without prices rising, perhaps sharply.

    So don't get too used to paying a mere $3 and change for gasoline. Higher prices are on the way soon enough, thanks to stretched supplies and a Federal Reserve spigot that is likely to remain wide open for years to come.

    "The fundamental story of increased oil scarcity is unchanged, and our commodity strategists now see distinct upside risks to their current forecast of $120/barrel for Brent crude by late 2012," Hatzius and Tilton write. "So the impact of scarcer oil and higher oil prices on economic activity remains at the top of our list of worries."

    What makes higher oil prices almost inevitable is the depth of the jobs deficit in the United States. Unemployment is officially 9% but is more like 13% if you consider the low rate of labor force participation, says Bernstein Research strategist Vadim Zlotnikov. That number has fallen this year to levels not seen since 1985.

    High joblessness and weak inflation will keep the fed funds rate near zero at least through next year and perhaps longer, Hatzius and Tilton write. That should help keep pushing unemployment slowly toward its long-run average of around 6% -- but at the expense of further dollar depreciation, stronger global demand and, ultimately, higher oil prices.

    So the selloff that has taken the crude price down to $100 or so in New York and $112 in Europe, where Brent is traded, may persist through much of 2011. But it won't last forever, Goldman warns.

    "The only way to bring both the labor market and the oil market into equilibrium is likely to be through a further increase in the real oil price," the Goldman economists write. "This would presumably increase oil supply by making exploration and production more attractive, and reduce oil demand by increasing energy efficiency."

    They add that this policy trade-off is often unfairly portrayed as transferring income from the poor to the rich. The Goldman economists concede that those in the bottom fifth of the U.S. income distribution spend more of their funds on gas than do those in the top fifth, by 4.6% to 3.5%.

    But they note that those losses by the poorest consumers are offset by the job creation enabled by the loose Fed policy, which "will lead to significant gains in real income for a subset of households drawn disproportionately from the lower end of the income distribution."

    And while no one is likely to turn cartwheels about higher oil prices, Hatzius and Tilton point out that there's an obvious way for the United States to turn that trend in its favor: By imposing higher taxes on energy use.

    In doing so the government could both hold down consumption (through higher prices) and boost federal revenues (which could use some boosting nowadays, you may have noticed), mostly at the expense of foreign governments that are at best our frenemies. But needless to say, something that makes that much sense has about as much chance of seeing daylight in the current Congress as the return of dollar-a-gallon gas.

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