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投资理财

美国经济恢复四大怪现象

Nin-Hai Tseng 2011年09月01日

从消费支出到企业投资,本轮经济恢复与以往任何一次都截然不同。

    究竟是什么一直在阻碍美国经济的恢复?恐怕我们一时很难准确地指出症结所在。经济学家和媒体一般喜欢用“大萧条”这个词来形容从2008年房地产市场崩盘之后(直至今日)美国经济的惨状。这表明他们认为这次经济危机和以往的经济萧条并没有什么区别,只不过是更加严重一些而已。

    眼下经济恢复再度步履维艰,美国金融体系更是接近崩溃。不过哈佛大学(Harvard University)经济学家肯思斯•罗高夫指出,今天的经济恢复可以说是一次“大紧缩”,这次金融海啸的余震无论从哪方面看,都不像是一场典型的经济萧条。

    本月早些时候,罗高夫在《评论汇编》(Project Syndicate)杂志中撰文称:“在传统的经济萧条期里,一旦经济开始重新增长,就意味着不久之后,经济将以较快的速度返回常态。经济不仅会收复失地,而且一般来说,一年之内,就会追赶上它的长期增长趋势。”

    这场大萧条两年前就正式结束了。不过今年上半年,美国经济的增幅几乎为零。上周美联储(Federal Reserve)主席本•伯南克在怀俄明州的杰克森霍尔发表了一个演讲,承认市场之所以疲弱不振,其根本症结并不是靠央行的力量就能解决。现在华盛顿的立法者们必须站出来,给经济复苏注入活力。

    谈到下一步该怎么办,国会议员们可能颇感束手无策。不过议员们也许有必要研究一下本次经济恢复与以往历次经济危机有哪些不同之处,以此作为切入点。

    企业长期投资:自1949年以来,建筑行业一直是推动经济恢复的主要因素之一。兴建楼宇和厂房不仅可以帮助企业扩大产能,而且总体经济中也会新增不少工作岗位。因为每修建一栋楼,就必要有人负责接单、仓储、运输等等工作。

    历次经济危机结束时,企业的投资都会激增,只有这次是个例外。眼下并没有多少新工厂破土动工,企业也没有吃进多少商业地产。据美国进步中心(Center for American Progress)介绍,自从金融海啸爆发以来,企业的投资一直保持低位运行,平均只占GDP的10.3%,这是自上世纪70年代以来所有经济周期中最低的一次。

    事实上,标普500企业中的非金融类企业共持有1.1万亿美元现金和短期投资,可见美国的大企业并不是无钱投资。那么美国企业捂紧钱袋子的原因到底是什么?

    前美联储主席艾伦•格林斯潘最近接受《金融时报》(The Financial Times)采访时指出:“在这次经济恢复时期里,企业为什么不肯投资于长期资产?也就是说他们为什么不肯做出20年以上的投资?原因主要是当前经济中存在着很大的不确定性因素。”

    格林斯潘敦促华盛顿的立法者和决策层不要对经济进行干预,让经济依靠自身的力量进行自愈。不过增长缓慢和高失业率带来的痛苦让很多人来难以忍受。此外,“无为而治”的做法在政治上也是不受欢迎之举,更何况2012年的总统大选已经迫在眉睫。

    It's hard to pinpoint exactly what has continued to hamper the U.S. economy. Economists and the media have popularly adopted the term "The Great Recession" to describe all that's gone wrong since the housing market collapsed several years ago, implying that Americans have just come out of a typical recession that, if anything, was only more severe.

    Needless to say, the near implosion of the U.S. financial system was severe. But as Harvard University economist Kenneth Rogoff has pointed out, the recovery today is something that can only be called "The Great Contraction," suggesting that the aftermath of a financial crisis does not look anything close to that of a typical recession.

    "In a conventional recession, the resumption of growth implies a reasonably brisk return to normalcy," Rogoff wrote earlier this month in Project Syndicate. "The economy not only regains its lost ground, but, within a year, it typically catches up to its rising long-run trend."

    The recession officially ended more than two years ago. And yet, during the first half of this year, the economy barely grew. With Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke acknowledging in his speech in Jackson Hole, Wyo., last week that the problems plaguing the marketplace are beyond the powers of the central bank, it becomes all the more important for Washington lawmakers to help reboot the economy.

    Members of Congress might be scratching their heads over what to do next, but perhaps as a starting point, members should look at how this recovery is different from previous ones.

    Long-term business investment: Since 1949, construction has been a major component driving economic recoveries. Not only does construction of new buildings and factories help make companies become more productive, but it also creates jobs for the overall economy as each order of concrete, for instance, demands workers to do everything from taking the order to delivering it from the warehouse to the building site.

    But unlike the end of other recessions when business investment surged, companies today aren't building many new factories or buying up much commercial real estate. Business investment has continued at a slow place, averaging 10.3% of GDP since the start of the latest recession – the lowest average for any business cycle since the 1970s, according to the Center for American Progress.

    Given that S&P 500's non-financial companies altogether hold more than $1.1 trillion in cash and short-term investments, it's not as if America's biggest companies don't have the money to invest. So what's to blame for the pullback in spending?

    "It's a question of why is it that we no longer in a recovery can fund long-term assets –basically 20 years or more – and the answer essentially is that there's a huge element of uncertainty in this economy," former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in a recent interview with The Financial Times.

    Greenspan has urged Washington lawmakers and policymakers to stand aside and let the economy heal on its own. However, the pains of slow growth and high unemployment might be too much for many to endure. What's more, doing nothing would certainly be politically unpopular especially given the 2012 presidential election.

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