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投资理财

爱尔兰:经济向好难敌欧债危机蔓延

Nin-Hai Tseng 2011年10月17日

意外,意外。被誉为“凯尔特之虎”的爱尔兰经济增速好于预期。

    虽然希腊和意大利两国国内因为银行资金和债务问题闹得天翻地覆,但投资者们相信有一个国家正逐步向好,那就是爱尔兰。

    在一度频于债务违约、后获救助的欧元区边缘经济体中,有“凯尔特之虎”美誉的爱尔兰经济增速好于预期。爱尔兰经济继一季度增长1.9%后,二季度又实现了1.6%的增长。

    投资者们已注意到:据《金融时报》(The Financial Times)报道,爱尔兰10年期债券收益率已从7月18日创下的年内高点约14%大降637个基点至7.7%,是“同期欧元区主要经济体中表现最好的公债市场,也是同期全球表现最好的公债市场之一。”

    据彭博社(Bloomberg)报道,上月爱尔兰10年期收益率降至10%以下,是葡萄牙救助行动以来的第一次。6月8日以来,葡萄牙10年期借款成本一直在10%或以上,而类似存续期的希腊证券收益率为22.84%。

    投资者对爱尔兰重拾信心,已让一些人开始期待其他国家是否会跟进。不到一年前,这个小小的岛国还濒于违约,不得不接受附带大幅紧缩举措的救助方案。如今,该国早已经显露出稳定的迹象。

    这股势头会持续下去吗?欧债危机积重难返,继续扰动全球市场,因此,爱尔兰值得关注。对于那些努力试图解决庞大债务问题的国家而言,爱尔兰要么是一个正面的榜样,要么是一个明证,即便经济表现最好的国家也难以在欧债危机中独善其身。

    2008年,爱尔兰是欧元区最先开始陷入衰退的国家之一。虽然其衰退程度远比葡萄牙严重,但迄今爱尔兰的复苏力度也相对强劲,Kumar指出。目前爱尔兰的实际GDP比峰值低约12%,而葡萄牙只比高点低2.5%。不过,今年爱尔兰经济显现正增长,葡萄牙仍为负增长。

    从很多方面来说,爱尔兰的近期表现都源于过去吸引外国投资者的良好记录——爱尔兰人口结构相对年轻,教育情况良好,同时企业税率也相对较低,这些对外国投资者很有吸引力。直到2008年初陷入衰退前,爱尔兰一直都是知名的海外投资目的地,任何希望深入欧洲市场腹地的外国投资者都会来到这里。思科(Cisco)、英特尔(Intel)、微软(Microsoft)和其他大公司在爱尔兰都建立了规模庞大的办公室。因此,爱尔兰经济不同于希腊。

    然而,未来一年爱尔兰的增长形势可能依然严峻,因为欧债危机很可能拖累全球增长。今年,出口推动了爱尔兰的增长。“特别是依赖欧盟、美国和加拿大作为出口目的地,凸显了这些国家经济增长前景恶化可能给爱尔兰带来的风险,”德意志银行(Deutsche Bank)称。

    爱尔兰本土的消费者不太可能有能力抵消潜在的出口下滑。与美国类似,几年前房地产市场泡沫破裂带来的沉重债务令爱尔兰消费者们深受其累。

    国民生产总值能更好地反映国内需求。事实上,爱尔兰的这一指标二季度增长了1.1%,是很长一段时间以来的最高增幅。但这样的增长是基于前一季4.3%的下降。

    “总体而言,今年爱尔兰国内增长仍为高负值,”俄亥俄卫斯理大学(Ohio Wesleyan University)教授西恩•柯称。他著有《柯尔特之虎的复兴幻想:爱尔兰的崛起、衰落和复苏》(Celtic Revival? The Rise, Fall and Renewal of Global Ireland)一书。此外,今夏,穆迪(Moody's)国际评级机构将爱尔兰评级降至“垃圾”级。柯指出,此举并非基于爱尔兰的经济表现,而是因为该国负债仍重,如果没有欧盟持续的金融救助,违约风险仍然存在。

    确实,爱尔兰已取得了一定的成绩。这无疑已帮助这只“凯尔特之虎”再度抖擞精神。但和全球其他大多数经济体一样,在金融危机蔓延的大潮中,爱尔兰可能很难独善其身。

    Despite all the upheaval surrounding bank funding and debt problems in Greece and Italy, investors are betting that one country is seeing better days: Ireland.

    The Celtic Tiger, among the eurozone's peripheral economies rescued to avoid the likelihood of defaulting on soaring debts, is seeing better-than-expected growth. Its economy expanded 1.6% in the second quarter after growing 1.9% during the previous quarter.

    Investors have taken note: Irish 10-year bond yields have plunged 637 basis points to 7.7% since this year's peak of about 14% on July 18, according to The Financial Times, making it "the best performing government debt market of the main eurozone economies and one of the best performing in the world over that period."

    Irish 10-year yields slipped below 10% last month for the first time since Portugal's rescue, according to Bloomberg. Portugal's 10-year borrowing costs have been 10% or higher since June 8, while Greek securities of similar maturities yield 22.84%.

    Investors' renewed faith in Ireland has prompted some to wonder if the country's path is something others should follow. It was less than a year ago that the tiny island nation was on the brink of default and forced to take a bailout with deep austerity measures attached. And already, it is showing signs of stability.

    Will the momentum last? Ireland is something to watch closely as Europe's long and slogging debt crisis continues to roil global markets. The country could either serve as somewhat of a how-to for ailing economies struggling to come off huge debt problems or proof that even the best of them can't escape the wrath of Europe's debt crisis.

    In 2008, the country was one of the first to enter into recession in the eurozone. Though the downturn was much more severe than in Portugal, Ireland's recovery has been stronger, Kumar notes. Whereas Ireland's real GDP is about 12% below its peak, it's only 2.5% below peak in Portugal. Yet Ireland has shown positive growth this year, while Portugal is still in negative territory.

    In many ways, Ireland's recent performance is rooted in its previous record of attracting foreign investors eyeing the country's relatively young and well education population, as well as its low corporate tax rate. Until Ireland fell into recession at the start of 2008, it was known as a destination for foreign investors wanting to tap deeper into the European market. Cisco (CSCO), Intel (INTC) Microsoft (MSFT) and other big corporate names have large offices in Ireland. So its economy is unlike Greece.

    But growth for Ireland could prove challenging in the year ahead as Europe's debt crisis stands to deteriorate growth across the globe. Exports have driven Ireland's growth this year. "In particular the reliance on the EU, U.S. and Canada as destinations for exports highlights the potential risks of the deteriorating economic outlook in these countries for Ireland," according to Deutsche Bank.

    Ireland's consumers won't likely be able to offset any potential decline in exports. Similar to the U.S., they're weighed down with heavy debts from a housing market that went bust only a few years ago.

    Indeed, Ireland's Gross National Product, which better reflects domestic demand, grew 1.1% during the second quarter – the highest increase in economic productivity in a long time. But such growth comes on top of a decline of 4.3% during the previous quarter.

    "Taken together, Ireland remains in deeply negative domestic growth for the year," says Sean Kay, professor at Ohio Wesleyan University and author of Celtic Revival? The Rise, Fall and Renewal of Global Ireland. What's more, this summer, Moody's international rating agency downgraded Ireland to "junk" status. Kay notes the move wasn't based on the economy's performance but because it remains so deeply in debt that default seems likely without ongoing financial help from the European Union.

    Indeed, Ireland has much going for it. No doubt this has helped the Celtic Tiger purr again. But like most other economies across the globe, the risk of financial contagion may be hard for Ireland to escape.

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