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美联储预测能力如何?基本是瞎蒙

Bob Sellers 2019年07月06日

金融市场相信,美联储一定能够保持股市的正常运行和国民经济的发展。其实不然。

2019年6月25日,美联储主席杰罗姆·鲍威尔在纽约市的外交关系协会接受《纽约时报》记者尼尔·欧文采访时回答现场观众的提问。在采访中,鲍威尔讨论了美国经济面临的挑战以及美联储的政策。图片来源:Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

很多人可能不知道保罗·沃尔克是何许人也。20世纪80年代,他曾经抽着雪茄走进国会山,一边挠着脑袋,一边解释他打算怎样用极高的利率来扼制失控的通胀。自那时起,人们对这位美联储主席的崇敬之情便有如滔滔江水,连绵不绝。

美国人对沃尔克的崇敬,慢慢地演化成了对美联储的迷信。金融市场相信,美联储一定能够保持股市的正常运行和国民经济的发展(虽然严格地说,这两者也并不算美联储的职责)。不过从美国当前的证券和债券价格看,在即将于7月30日和31日召开的美联储下次会议上,现任美联储主席杰罗姆·鲍威尔必将决定降息至少25个基点,这差不多已经是板上钉钉了。

但是,美联储真的全盘掌握了当前的经济形势吗?

ACP投资集团的首席市场策略师弗兰克·农齐亚托表示:“美联储的展望有些后知后觉了,它至少还应该降息两到三次。国债市场正在强烈呼吁他们降息,但他们的动作太慢了。”

当然,这也不是美联储第一次行动或者反应迟缓了。

2007年6月,美国联邦公开市场委员会(FOMC)的成员发布了他们对经济的预测。接下来几年,实际GDP的预测范围和真实数据分别如下(取消了三个最高和最低预测,这种方法又称为“中位趋势预测”):

2007年:预测值:2.4%~2.5%,实际值:1.9%

2008年:预测值:1.8%~2.5%,实际值:-0.1%

2009年:预测值:2.3%~2.7%,实际值:-2.5%

2010年:预测值:2.5%~2.6%,实际值:2.6%

他们完全没有预测到近在眼前的经济危机。

公平地说,当时也没有任何人预测到经济危机已经迫在眉睫。而且,时任美联储主席的本·伯南克的反应,可能确实防止了经济危机演变成另一场“大萧条”。不过上面的例子也表明,要想预测像美国这样一个复杂经济体的走向,难度会有多高,2007年的事情就是明证,更惶论预测世界经济的走向。

在美国终于走出经济危机后,FOMC在2011年6月又发布了预测。这次,实际GDP的预测范围和实际值分别为:

2011年:预测值:2.7%~2.9%,实际值:1.6%

2012年:预测值:3.3%~3.7%,实际值:2.2%

2013年:预测值:3.5%~4.2%,实际值:1.7%。

这个准确率跟瞎蒙差不多。

CF&P公司的经济学家丹·米切尔表示:“我认为,经济学家——不管是公立机构的,还是私营企业的,在预测短期走势上都做得很糟糕。经济学家更擅于预测长期趋势,因为它基本上是由生产力和人口决定的——此外还有预测哪些因素会导致生产力上升或下降。”

同样的问题也发生在通胀上。在5月1日的FOMC会议后,美联储主席鲍威尔貌似对当前的通胀率感到困惑,因为它再次低于2%的既定目标。“一季度的低通胀是没有预料到的……可能是出于某种暂时或特殊的原因。”

现在,FOMC又发布了最近(2019年6月)的一份经济和通胀预测。你可能想知道,其中有多少预测是基于智慧和经验的,又有多少预测是一厢情愿的。

根据其预测,美国实际GDP今后三年的中位预测值分别是:

2019年:2.1%

2020年:2%

2021年:1.8%

与此同时,这三年美国个人消费支出通胀率的预测值分别为1.5%、1.9%和2%。

至于在经济增长放缓、工资增长差强人意的大环境下,2%的目标通胀率如何能达到,FOMC则并没有给出解释。

但是,当前要想预测经济的走向,进而相应地制定利率政策,最大的挑战可能并非在于GDP、通胀、工资、企业收益甚至全球利率等因素,而是在于另一个单独的因素。

上周,鲍威尔在外交关系协会接受采访时表示:“我们已经听到了很多关于贸易问题的担忧,实际上,在上一份黄皮书(6月5日)中,贸易问题被提起的此数已经比上次翻了一番……也有很多关于加征关税问题的讨论,这就是不确定因素的所在,也是企业较为关注的问题。”

不过鲍威尔也表示,关税问题目前不会给美国经济带来重大威胁,因为关税并没有高到吓人的地步,而且关税带来的成本增长是一次性的,不会造成持续性的影响。

当然,并非所有分析师都这么乐观。FXStreet公司的高级分析师约瑟夫·特雷维萨尼指出:“很多人都在担心,如果中美贸易争端、英国脱欧等事件没有得到好的解决,世界经济将朝什么方向发展。最近,全球经济放缓的速度可能会显著加剧,企业和消费者都会控制开支,导致欧洲和中国经济进一步放缓——而这反过来又会影响到全世界,包括美国。”

因此,上周末中美两国宣布暂停征收新的关税,并继续进行贸易谈判,这对全球经济来说是个非常好的消息。不过美联储面临的挑战依然十分严峻,毕竟从历史纪录来看,美联储对GDP增长率和通胀的预测很少准过。而且就算它对国内外一些其他因素做好了应对准备,只要某人心血来潮发了一条凌晨的推特,就都有可能突然转向。(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

Ever since the towering figure of Paul Volcker would march up to Capitol Hill to smoke a cigar, scratch his head, and defend sky-high interest rates to break runaway inflation, public utterances by the reigning Fed chief have been treated with Yoda-like reverence.

The reverence extends to the Fed itself, which the financial markets trust to keep the stock market going and the economy expanding (even though technically that’s not its job). In fact, right now it’s practically built into equity and bond prices that the current Fed Chair Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates at least 25 basis points at its next meeting on July 30-31.

But is the Fed really on top of what’s going on in the economy?

“The Fed’s outlook is 2-3 rate cuts behind the curve,” says Frank Nunziato, chief market strategist of the ACP Investment Group. “The Treasury market is screaming for them to cut rates and they’re moving too slow.”

It wouldn’t be the first time the Fed was slow to act – or react.

In June of 2007, members of the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) issued their economic projections. The forecast range for real GDP (The three highest and lowest projects were dropped, called central tendency projections) and the actual for the following years:

--2007: 2.4% -- 2.5%. Actual: 1.9%

--2008: 1.8%-- 2.5% Actual: -0.1%

--2009: 2.3% --2.7% Actual: -2.5%

--2010: 2.5% -- 2.6% Actual: 2.6%

They totally missed the Great Recession.

In all fairness, just about everybody else did, too. And the response by Ben Bernanke and his cohorts probably prevented the Great Recession from becoming another Great Depression. But the forecasting miss proves just how hard it is to predict the direction of something as complicated as the American – not to mention global – economy. And it’s especially hard to predict when the direction changes suddenly, as it did back in 2007.

But after finally coming out of the Great Recession, here’s what the FOMC saw coming in its June 2011 forecast. Look at the forecast ranges for real GDP and the actual real GDP growth, respectively:

2.7% to 2.9% versus 1.6% in 2011

3.3% to 3.7% versus 2.2% in 2012

3.5% to 4.2% versus 1.7% in 2013

Not even close.

“As a general rule,” says Dan Mitchell, economist at CF&P, “I think economists -- public, private, doesn't matter -- do a lousy job trying to guess the short-run twists and turns. We do a better job of estimating long-run trends -- basically driven by productivity and population -- as well as speculating on what might nudge productivity up or down.”

A similar thing may be going on right now with a second component, inflation. After the May 1 FOMC meeting, Fed Chief Powell sounded puzzled by the rate of inflation, once again falling below the targeted rate of 2%. “The weak inflation performance in the 1st quarter was not expected...some of it appears to be transitory or idiosyncratic.”

Now that the FOMC has released its most recent (June 2019) forecast for the economy and inflation, one might wonder how much of it is based on wisdom and experience, and how much is done with fingers crossed.

The projected median change in real GDP:

2.1% in 2019

2.0% in 2020

1.8% in 2021

The PCE inflation is 1.5%, 1.9% and 2.0%, respectively for those years.

The FOMC doesn’t explain how the elusive inflation target rate of 2% will be reached in an economy that is slowing, and where wages have only grown modestly.

But the biggest challenge right now in predicting the direction of the economy, and as a result interest rate policy, may lie in a separate component – not GDP, inflation, wages, corporate earnings, or even global interest rates.

Chairman Powell summed it up in an interview last week at the Council on Foreign Relations. “We’ve been hearing quite a bit about concerns about trade,” he said, “In fact, the number of mentions of trade concerns doubled in the last Beige Book (June 5th)… there is discussion of much greater tariffs, and I think that’s where the uncertainty is and that’s where the concerns are on the part of business.”

But current tariffs, Powell said, would not represent a major threat to the American economy right now because they’re not terribly high and they are a one-time cost increase, not an ongoing one.

Not all analysts are so sure about that. “There are large concerns about where the world economy might be headed if the U.S.-China trade dispute and Brexit are not settled on amicable terms,” says Joseph Trevisani, senior analyst at FXStreet. “The recent slowdown in the global economy could become substantially worse, with businesses and consumers holding back on spending and further retarding weak growth in Europe and China -- which would in turn impact the entire world, including the United States.”

So the announcement over the weekend that China and the U.S. would withhold new tariffs and continue trade talks may be very good news for the global economy. But the challenge continues for a Fed that has a spotty record of predicting traditional economic factors such as GDP growth and inflation, while trying to react to global and domestic factors that could change direction at the drop of an early-morning tweet.

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