爱思英语编者按:美国联邦储备系统(英语:The Federal Reserve System或者Federal Reserve,非正式称为The Fed),简称美联储,负责履行美国的中央银行的职责。这个系统是根据《联邦储备法》(Federal Reserve Act)于1914年11月16日成立的。
 
Free exchange
自由交流
Exit, pursued by bear
退出,为熊所迫
The Fed has at last raised rates. What happens next?
美联储最后还是升息了。今后会出现什么情况呢?
 
Jan 2nd 2016 | From the print edition
 
美联储.jpg
 
IT IS more than two weeks since the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in over nine years, and the world has not (yet) ended. But it is too soon to celebrate. Several central banks have tried to lift rates in recent years after long spells near zero, only to be forced to reverse course and cut them again (see chart). The outcome of America's rate rise, whatever it may be, will help economists understand why zero exerts such a powerful gravitational pull.
 
美联储9年多来第一次升息已经过去两周多了,而且世界也没有走到尽头。但是,现在庆祝还为时过早。近年来,多家央行曾经试图把利率升至零区间以上,结果却是被迫反转了进程,再次消减了利率(见图表)。美联储升息的结果,不管会是怎样,都将有助于经济学家理解零利率为什么会具有一种如此强大的吸引力。
 
Recessions strike when too many people wish to save and too few to spend. Central banks try to escape the doldrums by slashing interest rates, encouraging people to loosen their grip on their money. It is hard to lower rates much below zero, however, since people and businesses would begin to swap bank deposits for cash or other assets. So during a really nasty shock, economists agree, rates cannot go low enough to revive demand.
 
衰退袭来之际就是太多的人希望存钱、太少的人希望花钱之时。央行摆脱这种低迷的方式是大幅减息,鼓励人们放松对手里的钱的紧攥。然而,把利率降至零之下太多是困难的。因为,这时,人们会开始把银行存款换成现金或者其他资产。因此,经济学家一致认为,在一次真正的危机期间,为了复兴需求,利率是不可能降得太低的。
 
There is significant disagreement, however, on why economies become stuck in this quagmire for long periods. There are three main explanations. The Fed maintains that the problem stems from central-bank paralysis, either self-induced or politically imposed. That prevents the use of unconventional monetary policies such as quantitative easing—the printing of money to buy bonds. The intention of QE is to buy enough long-dated debt to lower long-term borrowing rates, thereby getting around the interest-rate floor. Once QE has generated a speedy enough recovery, senior officials at the Fed argue, there is no reason not to raise rates as in normal times.
 
然而,为什么经济学会陷在泥潭中这么长时间呢?对此,各方的看法就大相径庭了。有三种主要的解释。美联储坚持认为,问题的根源在于央行的瘫痪,而造成这种瘫痪的原因既可能是自身造成的,也可能是迫于政治上的压力。这阻碍了非常规货币政策的运用,例如印钱购买债券的量化宽松。量化宽松的本意是购买足够多的长期债务,来降低长期的借贷利率,从而摆脱利率下限。美联储的高级官员认为,一旦量化宽松带来了一种足够快的复苏,就没有理由不把利率提升至正常水平了。
 
If the Fed is right, 2016 will be a rosy year for the American economy. The central bank expects growth to accelerate and unemployment to keep falling even as it lifts rates to 1.5% or so by the end of the year. Yet markets reckon that is wildly optimistic, and that rates will remain below 1%. That is where the other two explanations come in.
 
如果美联储是对的,2016年对于美国经济来说将是乐观的一年。美联储预计,即便到年底时把利率升至 1.5%,增长也将加速,失业率也会保持下降。然而,市场认为,这种预期太乐观了,利率将维持在1%以下。这里正是其他两种解释加以说明的地方。
 
The first is the “liquidity trap”, an idea which dates back to the 1930s and was dusted off when Japan sank into deflation in the late 1990s. Its proponents argue that central banks are very nearly helpless once rates drop to zero. Not even QE is much use, since banks are not short of money to lend, but of sound borrowers to lend to.
 
第一种解释叫做“流动性陷阱”——一种可以回溯到上世纪30年代并且在日本于上市90年代末期陷入通缩时就被忘记了的思想。它的支持者认为,一旦利率降至零区间,央行就几乎帮不上忙了。就算是量化宽松被大量运用,也是如此。因为,银行不缺少要借出去的钱,而是缺少可靠的借钱者以便把钱借给他。
 
Advocates of this theory see only two routes out of the trap. The government can soak up excess savings by borrowing heavily itself and then spending to boost demand. Or the central bank can promise to tolerate much higher inflation when, in the distant future, the economy returns to health. The promise of higher-than-normal inflation in future, if believed, reduces the real, or inflation-adjusted, interest rate in the present, since money used to repay loans will be worth less than the money borrowed. Expectations of higher future inflation therefore provide the stuck economy with the sub-zero interest rates needed to escape the rut.
 
这一理论的支持者所看到的走出这个陷阱的道路只有两条。政府可以通过自己大量借钱然后再花出去以提振需求的方式来吸收过剩的存款,或者是,央行可以承诺,当经济在遥远的将来恢复健康时,容忍高得多的通胀。倘若将来高于正常水平的通胀的承诺得到认可,它就会降低当前的实际利率,即扣除通胀后的利率。因为,用于还贷的钱会比被借出去的钱更值钱。因此,未来的高通胀预期给身陷困境的经济体提供了逃离陷阱所必需的负利率。
 
Governments pursued both these policies in the 1930s to escape the Depression. But when they reversed course prematurely, as America's did in 1937, the economy suffered a nasty and immediate relapse. The liquidity-trap explanation suggests the Fed's rate rise was ill-advised. The American economy, after all, is far from perky: it is growing much more slowly than the pre-crisis trend; inflation is barely above zero; and expectations of inflation are close to their lowest levels of the recovery. If this view is correct, the Fed will be forced by tumbling growth and inflation to reverse course in short order, or face a new recession.
 
各国政府曾在上世纪30年代利用这两种政策来逃离大衰退。但是,当他们提前反转了这一进程时,就像美国在1937年所做的那样,经济承受了一场严重的、即时的反复。流动性陷阱的解释表明,美联储的升息,考虑不周。毕竟,美国经济离着生机勃勃还很远:目前,它的增长远远慢于危机前的水平;通胀刚刚高于零;而且通胀预期也接近于复苏以来的最低水平。如果这种观点是对的,美联储将被迫通过打压增长和通胀的方式,短期内反转这一进程。不然,就要面临一场新的衰退。

Stuck in a glut
深陷过剩之中
 
There is a third version of events, however. This narrative, which counts Larry Summers, a former treasury secretary, among its main proponents, suggests that the problem is a global glut of savings relative to attractive investment options. This glut of capital has steadily and relentlessly pushed real interest rates around the world towards zero.
 
然而,事情还有第三种版本。这种表述——主要支持者包括美国前财长萨默斯——认为,问题是一种相对于有吸引力的投资选择而言的全球储蓄过剩。这种资本的过剩稳定且不屈不挠地将全世界的实际利率推向了零利率区间。
 
The savings-investment mismatch has several causes. Dampened expectations for long-run growth, thanks to everything from ageing to reductions in capital spending enabled by new technology, are squeezing investment. At the same time soaring inequality, which concentrates income in the hands of people who tend to save, along with a hunger for safe assets in a world of massive and volatile capital flows, boosts saving. The result is a shortfall in global demand that sucks ever more of the world economy into the zero-rate trap.
 
储蓄—投资的这种错配有着多方面的原因。拜从老龄化到资本支出的减少因为新技术而成为可能的这一切所赐的对于长期增长的看衰性预期正在挤压投资。与此同时,日渐加剧的让收入集中到倾向于储蓄的人手中的不平等,以及在一个大规模的且非常不稳定的资本流动的世界中的一种对于安全资产的渴望,却在刺激储蓄。其结果就是一种会把世界经济的更多部分吸入零利率陷阱的全球性需求短缺。
 
Economies with the biggest piles of savings relative to investment—such as China and the euro area—export their excess capital abroad, and as a consequence run large current-account surpluses. Those surpluses drain demand from healthier economies, as consumers' spending is redirected abroad. Low rates reduce central banks’ capacity to offset this drag, and the long-run nature of the problem means that promises to let inflation run wild in the future are less credible than ever.
 
有着最大的相对于投资的储蓄积累的经济体——如中国和欧元区——把他们过剩的资本出口到国外,结果就是这些经济体都有着巨大的经常账户盈余。这些盈余,随着消费者的开支被再次导向国外,它们就会从相对健康的经济体那里榨取需求。低利率降低了央行减轻这种拖累的能力。同时,问题的长期性也意味着让通胀在未来飙升的承诺也不再那么可信了。
 
This trap is an especially difficult one to escape. Fixing the global imbalance between savings and investment requires broad action right across the world economy: increased immigration to countries with ageing populations, dramatic reforms to stagnant economies and heavy borrowing by creditworthy governments. Short of that, the only options are sticking plasters, such as currency depreciation, which alleviates the domestic problem while worsening the pressure on other countries, or capital controls designed to restore monetary independence by keeping the tides of global capital at bay.
 
这是一种特别难以逃离的陷阱。修正这种全球性的储蓄和投资不平衡需要全世界各个经济体的通力行动:加大向人口老龄化国家的移民,对停滞的经济体进行彻底的改革,增加信誉好的政府的借贷行为。缺少了这种通力行动,剩下的唯一选项就是头疼医头脚疼医脚,如能够缓和国内问题却恶化了其他国家压力的货币贬值,或者是意在通过抑制全球性资本流动大潮的方法以恢复货币独立性的资本管制。
 
If this story is the right one, the outcome of the Fed's first rises will seem unremarkable. Growth will weaken slightly and inflation will linger near zero, forcing the Fed to abandon plans for higher rates. Yet the implications for the global economy will be grave. In the absence of radical, co-ordinated stimulus or restrictions on the free flow of capital, ever more of the world will be drawn, indefinitely, into the zero-rate trap.
 
如果这种看法是正确的,美联储首次升息的结果似乎就没有那么严重。增长会变得疲软一些,通胀将停留在零附近,这会迫使美联储放弃再次升息的计划。然而,这对于全球经济的影响确实严重的。缺少了激进的、通力合作的刺激或者是对资本自由流动的限制,这个世界会越来越多的地方被无限期地拖入零利率陷阱之中。