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债务危机持续蔓延,意大利应如何自救

Cyrus Sanati 2011年09月22日

标准普尔突然下调了意大利主权债信评级,凸显了该国当前政策的致命缺陷:在经济疲软不振的国家推行严厉的紧缩措施,负面效应不容忽视。

      

    19日晚上,标准普尔(Standard and Poor's)突然下调了意大利主权债信评级,凸显了该国当前政策的致命缺陷:在经济疲软不振的国家推行严厉的紧缩措施,负面效应不容忽视。

    削减政府服务及提高税收可能会拖累经济发展,意大利和其他欧元区边缘成员国本来就深陷债务泥潭,在紧缩政策下,信用风险不降反增。这样就造成了一种恶性循环,可能造成一国越来越依赖外部援助,直至最终债务违约。这种形势恶化造成的动荡将使今后几周的市场交易面临严重的不确定性,许多投资者将因此逃离市场。

    标普19日宣布,将意大利的长期和短期国债信用评级分别下调一个等级至A/A-1。今年夏季,欧元区危机恶化后,标普此前已将意大利置入“负面展望”行列。

    意大利公共债务总额高达1.9万亿欧元,是全球最大的债务国,而且直到今年夏季之前,该国债券市场的流动性在全球还名列前茅。标普调低意大利债信评级时解释称:主要是担心该国上周通过的大规模紧缩计划会“搬起石头砸自己的脚”。标普表示,上述计划可能会引发“外部需求进一步减少”,从而降低经济增长速度,经济增长疲软又将使意大利难以实现其财务目标——比如在2013年前实现预算平衡。

    意大利推出这份规模达550亿欧元的紧缩计划,并非一时异想天开——基本上可说是在欧洲央行(ECB)的逼迫下的无奈之举。今年夏季早些时候,欧元区危机的蔓延使投资者纷纷回避意大利债券拍卖,该国债券收益率随之大幅飙升,不仅增加了意大利政府的融资成本,还大大提高了未来的债券发行拍卖流标的可能性。只有通过不断借新债换旧债,意大利才能不被庞大的债务压倒,保持清偿能力,因此拍卖失败将造成灾难性的后果。

    为了降低这一风险,欧洲央行挺身而出,开始在二级市场上收购意大利国债,简而言之,即从容易受到惊吓的私人投资者手中接盘。欧洲央行的这一举措是有条件的:意大利必须实现一些财政目标,恢复本国经济秩序。去年希腊债券市场停摆,欧洲央行和国际货币基金组织(the International Monetary Fund)不得不加以救援,当时希腊也接受了类似的要求。

增长是关键

    The surprise downgrade of Italy's sovereign debt overnight by Standard and Poor's exposes the fatal flaws of pushing through draconian austerity measures on a nation experiencing economic weakness.

    Cutting services and raising taxes will slow economic growth, making heavily indebted countries like Italy and the rest of the eurozone periphery more of a credit risk than ever before. This creates a downward spiral in which a country becomes dependent on bailouts until it finally defaults. The volatility created by this downgrade will produce a considerable amount of uncertainty in the markets in the coming weeks, keeping many investors on the sidelines.

    S&P downgraded Italy's long-term and short-term sovereign debt rating one-notch to A/A-1. The nation was put on a "Negative Outlook" by S&P in the summer as the euro crisis intensified.

    At 1.9 trillion euros, the Italian debt market is one of the largest and, up until this summer, one of the most liquid debt markets in the world. In downgrading Italy, S&P said it was concerned that the country could be shooting itself in the foot by passing a massive austerity plan last week. It fears that the plan could lead to "more subdued external demand," therefore reducing economic growth. This reduced growth rate would then make it unlikely that Italy could hit its fiscal targets, like attaining a balanced budget by 2013.

    Italy didn't take on this 55 billion euro austerity plan on a whim -- it was essentially forced to do it by the European Central Bank. Earlier this summer, the euro contagion caused investors to step away from Italian bond auctions, forcing Italian bond yields to skyrocket. This increased Italy's funding costs and raised the possibility that there could be a failed auction for future debt offerings. Italy depends on rolling over its huge debt load to stay solvent, so a failed auction would be devastating.

    To offset this risk, the ECB came out and started buying Italian bonds on the secondary market, essentially taking the place of skittish private investors. This move by the ECB was done on the condition that Italy meets certain fiscal targets to get its economic house in order. It was similar to the demands placed on Greece last year when that nation's debt market froze up, forcing the ECB and the International Monetary Fund to bail it out.

Growth is key

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