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高盛CEO对欧洲判断失误

Shawn Tully 2013年05月23日

欧洲对经济的拼命缝补修复,迷惑了金融界一些最聪明的人士,包括高盛CEO布兰克梵,他们都确信欧元区这次一定能幸存下来。但几乎所有的欧洲经济指标都严峻恶化,直指欧元区的崩溃。

    在上周六德国全国性报纸《星期日世界报》(Welt am Sonntag)刊登的访谈中,高盛(Goldman Sachs)CEO劳埃德•布兰克梵宣称欧元区解体的风险已经在去年消退。布兰克梵进一步说道,美国人一贯地低估了欧洲人想要“建立一个团结的欧洲”的决心,但“我不会犯同样的错误”。

    布兰克梵是怎么想的?欧洲经济的脆弱健康状况从去年春季起就已经陷入危险境地。这使欧元这一欧洲通用货币面临前所未有的危险。欧盟官员和国家元首们的团结声明,对成员国根本缺陷的拼命缝补遮挡,甚至迷惑了金融界一些最聪明的人士,包括布兰克梵,他们都确信欧元区这次能够幸免。

    几乎所有的欧洲经济指标都严峻恶化,直指欧元区的崩溃。据国际货币基金组织(IMF)预测,欧元区17国的失业率从去年的11.4%骤升至今年的12.3%,创下新高。2013年西班牙和希腊的失业率均高达27%,未来两年内,在欧元区第二和第三大经济体的法国和意大利,失业率将达到约2%。

    以GDP衡量,欧元区经济正在不断萎缩,风险正向萧条倾斜。欧元区GDP在2011年仅增长1.4%,2012年下降0.6%,今年将继续萎缩——在这些陷入困境的经济体中,只有爱尔兰实现了增长。即使法国这个捍卫欧元的强国也蒙受了GDP缩水之苦。尽管实行了饱受诟病的“财政紧缩”政策,法国的巨额债务仍在持续增加。今年法国外债占GDP的92%,而2008年只有62%。意大利、葡萄牙、爱尔兰和希腊的外债占GDP比例则已经超过100%,西班牙正快速接近三位数。

    有这么多糟糕的数据,为什么多头还愈加相信欧元区能渡过难关?如果欧元区南部成员国会对他们僵化的劳动力市场进行根本性的结构改革,布兰克梵的观点才能说得通。但这并不是欧元区目前的主旋律。“欧元区成员国的竞争力问题远比债务问题严重,可这一点却被严重忽视,”卡内基梅隆大学(Carnegie Mellon)著名经济学家艾伦•梅尔策说。

    在意大利、西班牙和法国,制造一辆车或一块钢板的“单位劳动力成本”远高于德国或荷兰,这对它们的出口来说无疑构成了重大打击。同时,它们还严重依赖来自德国和中国等低成本国家的进口产品。

    对此只有两种解决办法。经济疲弱的国家应大幅削减工资和退休金开支,针对限制性的用工规则进行改革,或使货币贬值。随着意大利和法国放弃养老金制度改革,第一种路径方面的进展极为令人失望。由于失业率上升,欧洲的单位劳动力成本有所下降,但单凭这一点还远远不足以提升它们的出口竞争力或有效减少进口。因为无法再借助本币贬值这一利器,欧元区国家在债务和经济下滑的泥潭里越陷越深。

    In an interview published last Saturday in the German national newspaper Welt am Sonntag (World on Sunday), Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein declared that the risk of a euro breakup has faded in the past year. Blankfein went on to argue that Americans typically underestimate the will of Europeans to "see through the creation of a united Europe," and that "I'm not going to make the same mistake myself."

    What is Lloyd Blankfein thinking? The health of Europe's fragile economies has taken agefahrhlich, German for perilous, turn since last spring. That puts the common currency in far greater danger than ever. The declarations of solidarity by European Union officials and heads of state, and a desperate patchwork of fixes that that only mask the members' basic weakness, are deluding the best financial minds, including Blankfein, into believing that the euro is virtually certain to survive.

    The shocking deterioration in practically every economic metric points to the opposite conclusion. Unemployment in the 17-nation eurozone will jump from 11.4% in 2012 to a record 12.3% this year, according to the most recent IMF projections. The jobless rate in Spain and Greece will reach 27% in 2013, while around 2% of workers in France and Italy, the zone's second and third-largest economies, will lose their paychecks over the next two years.

    Measured in GDP, the eurozone is now shrinking, and risks careening into a depression. After expanding 1.4% in 2011, the euro area retreated 0.6% in 2012 and will contract again this year, with only one of the troubled economies -- Ireland --showing any growth. Even France, long bulwark of the common currency, suffers dwindling output. Despite the much-vilified shift to "austerity," the mountainous debts continue to rise. This year, France's borrowings will reach 92% of GDP, versus 62% in 2008. For Italy, Portugal, Ireland, and Greece, that figure already exceeds 100%, and Spain is fast approaching triple-digits.

    So given the dreadful numbers, why are the bulls gaining confidence that the euro will pull through? If the southern members were making fundamental, structural reforms to their rigid labor markets, the Blankfein view would make sense. But that's not the main theme in the eurozone. "The nations in the eurozone have a competitiveness problem far more than a debt problem, and it's been greatly underappreciated," notes Allan Meltzer, the renowned economist at Carnegie Mellon.

    In Italy, Spain and France, "unit labor costs," the wages and benefits required to produce a car or sheet of steel, are far higher than in Germany or the Netherlands. That's hammering their exports. At the same time, they're importing heavily from the lower-cost countries, from Germany to China.

    Only two solutions are possible. The weak nations need to radically reduce wages and pension costs, and reform restrictive work rules, or shift to cheaper currencies. Progress on the former has been extremely disappointing, with Italy and France already retreating on pension reform. Unit labor costs have fallen in response to rising joblessness, but not nearly enough to make their exports competitive or garner required reductions in imports. With the traditional safety valve of a falling currency no longer available, these nations are drifting further and further into debt and decline.

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