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投资理财

美投资者竞相看空中国

Scott Cendrowski 2011年07月01日

制造业工作岗位正在从中国向美国回流,不过许多看空中国的投资者认为,这只是中国所面临的种种问题中最微不足道的一个。

    吉姆•查诺斯并不是唯一一个唱衰中国的人。查诺斯是美国知名卖空大师,而且一直不疑余力地唱衰中国。他上个月表示很想做空某些在美上市但财务报表可疑的中国公司,只是苦于筹措不到足够的股票建仓。查诺斯接受这次访问仅一周后,就有另一名卖空者发布了一份报告,指责一家在美上市的中国木材公司(嘉汉林业——译注)财务造假,受其影响,该公司股价暴跌90%。

    最近交易员们竞相做空中国股票,再次证明在投资家的圈子里,有一种观点日益流行——如果不看空中国,就会错过下一轮大交易。

    美国研究机构罗迪集团(Rhodium Group)合伙人、中美关系专家荣大聂指出:“市场和外国学者现在都变得更悲观了。”

    查诺斯是从2009年开始唱衰中国的,当时他手下的分析师们开始研究中国的房地产繁荣,导致查诺斯将中国称为“迪拜*1,000”。同年,波士顿的投资公司GMO的爱德华•钱思乐和独立经济学家谢国忠也开始预言中国经济将出现硬着陆。

    最近越来越多的人加入了唱衰中国的阵营。亿万富翁乔治•索罗斯本月表示,中国可能出现了小的泡沫,而即将离职的香港证监会行政总裁韦弈礼也表示,中国可能成为“下一个互联网泡沫”。擅长预言的经济学家努里尔•鲁比尼近日再次重申了他的观点:2013年后,中国政府将无力阻止问题房地产项目和固定资产投资不足而导致的经济衰退。

    在唱衰中国的人中,许多人的观点源于这样一个事实:中国经济正在以9%的GDP增长率飞速增长。中国政府可能无法控制通胀,如果通胀失控,则会对增长造成不利影响。与此同时,中国的商业地产和住宅都供大于求,这些地产在未来许多年里可能都是国有银行的包袱,还有可能导致通货紧缩。此外中国政府在固定资产方面还做出了其他一些不明智的投资。详见《中国地方债务成不定时炸弹》( China's debt bomb)一文。

    鲁比尼的主要观点是,中共高层一直奉行宽松的货币政策。鲁比尼指出,中国的净出口额在2008至2009年的经济危机时期有所下降,但在政府行为的刺激下,固定投资占GDP的比重(如造桥和修路)从42%上升到了47%,这足以使中国躲过一场严重的衰退。不过鲁比尼也指出,中国的资本支出虽然激增,也不可能全部流入到有实效的项目上。鲁比尼本人在访问中国期间,就看到许多新建成的机场和高速列车都空空如也,还看到许多空无一人的“鬼城”,以及毫无意义的高速公路。中国的商业地产和豪华住宅已经供过于求,汽车产量也已经超过了需求水平。鲁比尼表示,在短期内,这些因素都会导致通胀——也就是过多的资金追逐有限的好项目。但最终产能过剩会导致通货紧缩压力,而这种压力往往会首先在制造业和房地产部门显现出来。

    鲁比尼今年四月在一篇发表于评论网站Project Syndicate上的文章中写道:“问题是一个国家的产能再高,也不可能高到将50%的GDP进行再投资而不出现巨额的产能过剩。”

    鲁比尼以90年代末的亚洲金融危机为例,说明了当国家过度投资但消费不足时将会出现的情况。鲁比尼认为,为了避免中国经济在2013年发生所谓的“硬着陆”,中国应减少储蓄、削减固定投资、减少净出口额占GDP的比重,同时着手推动国内消费。

    鲁比尼表示:“中国人之所以重储蓄,轻消费,背后的原因是结构性的,这也正是麻烦所在。中国需要20年的改革才能扭转过度投资的倾向。”

    上周乔治•索罗斯在出席挪威的一次经济会议时表示,中国已经错失了扼制通胀的良机。据彭博社(Bloomberg)报道,索罗斯在会议上表示,中国现在“有一点泡沫”。索罗斯补充道,中国已经开始出现由工资带动物价上涨的通货膨胀,在他看来,这也表明中国的经济增长已经开始失去动力。

    与此同时,有证据表明中国的房地产市场的确出现了问题,而且这些问题也引起了两家大型评级机构的关注。标准普尔(Standard & Poor)6月15日将中国房地产市场的展望下调至“负面”,标准普尔表示,明年中国的信贷紧缩可能会导致房地产价格下降10%。穆迪(Moody)三个月前也把对中国房地产市场的展望下调至“负面”。

    大多数经济学家仍然预测中国第二季度的GDP增幅将超过9%,全年的GDP增幅也将保持在9%左右。而过去30年的大多数年份里,中国的GDP年增率都在10%左右。

    彼得森国际经济研究所(Peterson Institute for International Economics)的高级研究员尼古拉斯•拉迪表示:“当然,我认为和经济学家比起来,我们更容易从华尔街的投资人身上感受到他们对中国经济硬着陆的恐慌。”拉迪表示他从前就过见过这一幕。在上世纪90年代末,中国的消费价格指数的增长率一度高达25%,但这并未影响中国后来的经济增长。

    拉迪补充道:“可以说中国去年的发展已经超出了它的增长潜力,现在可以看到中国经济已经在通胀中放缓。”不过随着货币紧缩政策减少了货币的供给,加上“政府对高通胀十分敏感,因此我认为中国仍处在良好的轨道上。”

    如今华尔街的投资家们纷纷表示看空中国,这种悲观情绪几乎占据了主流。现在该由中国来证明这些美国投资家是对是错了。

    译者:朴成奎

    Jim Chanos is not alone. The well-known short-seller and vocal China bear spoke last month of not finding enough available shares to short some U.S.-listed Chinese companies with questionable accounting practices. Just a week after his interview, a short seller's report on a U.S.-listed Chinese timber company sent its stock tumbling 90%.

    Indeed, the rush of traders making bearish bets on Chinese stocks is the latest evidence of growing trend among smart money: if you're not bearish on China, you're missing the next big trade.

    "The market and foreign academics have both turned more pessimistic," says Dan Rosen, a partner at the Rhodium Group who follows U.S.-China relations.

    Chanos started things off in 2009 when his analysts studied China's building boom, leading him to call it "Dubai times 1,000." Edward Chancellor at GMO in Boston and independent economist Andy Xie also began predicting that year that China would soon stumble.

    More recently the chorus has been growing. Billionaire George Soros said this month China might be in a small bubble, Hong Kong's outgoing securities regulator called it "the new dot-com," and soothsayer economist Nouriel Roubini recently repeated his thinking that China's government will be powerless to stop a downturn caused by dubious real estate projects and poor fixed-asset investments after 2013.

    Most of the arguments are some derivative of this: China's economy is screaming ahead at 9% GDP growth. The government may not be able to control inflation, and that could hurt growth. Meanwhile, there's a commercial and residential property glut that could hamper state-run banks for years and lead to deflation. Plus, the Chinese government has made other terrible investments across fixed-assets. (See also China's debt bomb)

    Roubini's main point is that China's communist leaders have been fast and loose with money. He says when China's net exports declined during the 2008-2009 global recession, government actions boosted fixed-investments' share of GDP (think bridge building and new roads) to 47% from 42%. It was enough to avert a severe recession in China, but Roubini contends that exploding capital spending can't possibly keep going to useful projects. He visited China and saw newly built airports and bullet trains that are empty, ghost towns, and highways leading to nowhere. Commercial real estate projects and luxury residential buildings have been overbuilt, and automobile capacity has outrun demand. In the short run, says Roubini, this all leads to inflation—too much money chasing too few good projects. But eventually overcapacity leads to deflationary pressures, which typically begin in the manufacturing and real-estate sectors.

    "The problem, of course, is that no country can be productive enough to reinvest 50% of GDP in new capital stock without eventually facing immense overcapacity," he wrote in an April article for Project Syndicate.

    Roubini uses the Asian financial crisis of the late '90s as an example of what happens when countries over-invest and under-consume. To avoid a so-called hard landing after 2013, Roubini thinks China needs to save less, cut fixed investment, reduce net exports' share of GDP, and start boosting domestic consumption.

    "The trouble is that the reasons the Chinese save so much and consume so little are structural," he says. "It will take two decades of reforms to change the incentive to over-invest."

    Last week George Soros used a recent appearance at an economic conference in Norway to say China has missed its opportunity to stem inflation. The billionaire investor told the conference that China is in "a bit of a bubble," according to Bloomberg. Soros added that the country was beginning to see the first sings of wage-price inflation, an indication to him that China's strategy for growing the economy was running out of steam.

    Meanwhile, China's well-documented real-estate problems recently attracted the attention of two major ratings agencies. Standard & Poor's cut its outlook to 'negative' on Chinese developers on June 15 and the rating agency said tighter credit could drive down prices by 10% over the next year. Three months earlier Moody's also downgraded its outlook on China property market to negative.

    Most economists still forecast China GDP growth to eclipse 9% in the second quarter, and settle around 9% growth for the full-year. This after rising at a 10% annualized clip for most of the past 30 years.

    "I certainly think fear of a hard landing is much more palpable on Wall Street among investors than people who study the economy," says Nicholas Lardy, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He's seen this story play out before, in the late '90s when China's consumer price index hit 25% growth. It didn't hamper future growth then.

    "It's fair to say China was growing above its potential last year, and we see it play out in high prices," adds Lardy. But with monetary tightening reducing the money supply and "given the political sensitivity to high inflation, I think they're on a good trajectory."

    The smart money around Wall Street says to bet against China, turning the sentiment almost mainstream. Now it's up to China's communist party to prove them right or wrong.

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