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债务危机:欧洲偷师美国,结构存在缺陷

Cyrus Sanati 2011年10月31日

欧洲正在考虑效法美国次贷危机最严重时美国财政部实施的两项成功的救助计划。想法不错,但结构可能有问题。

    市场本来期待上周三欧洲能给出一个方案,解决旷日持久的欧洲主权债务危机。但欧洲人非但没能做到这一点,反倒给市场注入了更多的不确定性。结果将是市场继续震荡,可能给世界经济带来长期的冲击。

    欧元区当前这些问题的解决之道并非什么秘密——如何让欧洲人参与进来正是问题所在。现在的关键是要重振对欧洲债市的信心,防止危机从欧元区的边缘小国扩散至欧元区核心经济体。欧洲人都知道,要重振信心,,他们的救助基金——欧洲金融稳定安排(European Financial Stability Facility, 简称EFSF)的规模和范围必须大幅扩大。

    EFSF扩容事宜今夏获准,经过欧元区所有17个成员国国会的艰难投票表决后本月终于生效。问题在于以4,400亿欧元的规模,扩容后的基金还是没有足够的火力来安抚市场、重振投资者信心。4,400亿欧元是应对希腊、葡萄牙和爱尔兰潜在违约风险的“大火箭筒”。但如今危机已扩散至经济规模大得多的西班牙和意大利,因此需要一个更大的火箭筒。

    如何实现EFSF再次扩容是最让欧洲领导人头疼的事情。欧元区所有17个成员国刚刚投票通过首次扩容事宜,要让所有成员国再次同意向救助基金注入更多资金几乎是不可能完成的任务。让它们同意一个约2万亿欧元的救助基金,无异于要说服法国总统在国宴上使用卡夫(Kraft)单独包装的片状奶酪产品一样——许多人认为考虑到意大利和西班牙的违约可能,救助基金规模需达到约2万亿欧元。

权宜之计:借力民间

    因此,欧洲人决定通过借力民间、提升救助基金的效力,而不是继续增加基金本金。那么,如何借力就成为了这场旷日持久、纷纷扰扰的讨论中的最新议题。上周三针对这个问题公布了一份非常粗糙的草案公报。公报列出了两种选择,他们相信通过这两种方式,无需成员国出资,就可以提高救助基金的影响力。

    也许欧洲人不愿意承认,但他们提出的这两项举债策略看起来很像2008、2009年美国次贷危机最严重时美国制定的两项计划,即定期资产抵押证券贷款工具(Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, 简称TALF)和公私合作投资计划(Public-Private Investment Program, 简称PPIP)。还记得吗?

    The big solution to Europe's long-running sovereign debt crisis was supposed to be unveiled today. But instead of a solution, the Europeans have managed to give the markets another dose of uncertainty. The result will be continued market volatility that threatens to bring about long-lasting damage to the world economy.

    The solution to the euro zone's current problems is no secret – it's getting the Europeans onboard that's been the problem. The key now is to restore confidence in their debt market to prevent contagion spreading from the small peripheral countries to the core euro zone economies. To restore that confidence, they know that their bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), needs to be much bigger in size and scope.

    The expansion of the EFSF was approved in the summer and finally came into force this month following agonizing votes in all 17 euro zone member parliaments. Trouble is, at 440 billion euros, the newly expanded fund still doesn't have enough firepower to quell the markets and restore investor confidence. That figure was the "big bazooka" number in dealing with potential defaults in Greece, Portugal and Ireland. But the crisis has since spread to Spain and Italy, which have much larger economies, and therefore requires a much larger bazooka.

    How to expand the EFSF again is at the heart of the troubles vexing European leaders. Getting all 17 members to agree again to put more capital into the fund after they just voted on an expansion is seen as a near impossibility. Getting them to agree to a bailout fund of around 2 trillion euros, which many believe is the new magic number after factoring in possible defaults in Italy and Spain, would be like convincing the president of France to serve Kraft singles for a cheese course at a state dinner.

A Band-Aid fix: Leverage

    So instead of augmenting the principle of the bailout fund, the Europeans have decided to artificially inflate the number by levering it up. How they propose to do this is the newest controversy in this long-running drama. A very rough draft communiqué on the issue made the rounds yesterday. It laid out two options that they believe could expand the firepower of the bailout fund without committing any more money from member states.

    The Europeans would probably never admit it, but the two proposed leveraging tactics look very similar to two programs instituted in the U.S. at the height of the mortgage meltdown in 2008 and 2009– the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, known as TALF, and the Public-Private Investment Program, known as PPIP. Remember those?

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