每日新闻更新 - 通货膨胀的两难境地 The Daily Update - The quandary on inflation

在最近一次的国会证词讲话中,美联储主席耶伦表示她对通胀水平很失望。尽管经过数年的货币刺激,但通货膨胀率仍低于美联储的目标值2%,而失业率下降幅度达到40多年来的最低水平。近期美国通胀不足似乎尤其显得不正常,特别当下正值国内劳动力市场收紧,美联储准备从过去八年来的政策中撤出。低通货膨胀率会打乱美联储的退出策略吗?如果不能,那他们将走向何方?

市场观察者纷纷关注最近通胀不足而引起的困境,但美联储不会放弃其观点:既然经济已经发挥出潜力,那么通胀水平将开始提升。产能过剩与通货膨胀是宏观经济中永恒的关系之一。有必要关注核心通货膨胀率迟来的反应,即使现在实际GDP超出了通胀稳定潜力。这种看似不正常的延迟在90年代晚期出现过,2003年又再次出现,当时产出已经超过了潜在水平,之后通货膨胀实际水平下降。通常来看,延迟的反应会持续一年,因此近期美国通胀水平疲软还不能让美联储公开市场委员会的议员们对这一关系丧失信心。

然而,美联储应该关注这一关系的强度。过去30年中,通胀波动已经缩窄,尽管实际GDP持续超出或低于最优充分就业水平。毫无疑问,生产与供应链的全球化,技术转移和服务外包的飞速发展,都削弱了通货膨胀和国内产出的关系。不管出于何种原因,美联储不再假定只依靠货币刺激就能对通胀产生快速显著的影响了。薪资问题也类似,也就是说,紧缩的劳动力市场不再显著影响雇主对薪资的设定。

任何货币政策的效率取决于从利率和信用创造到产出和通货再膨胀的传输机制。在理想情况下,美联储的政策利率将直接产生稳定通胀和充分就业这些最终目标。遗憾的是,这个过程掺杂了分歧和弯路,削弱了货币政策的有效性。受困的银行不一定因为从央行融资成本很低甚至为零而提供更多贷款。家庭和企业即使有资格低成本举债,也不一定抢着大量借款,似乎只有政府才这样做。太多的资金借给没有生产力、不会提高GDP的项目,挥霍到掏空现有架构的并购和房地产中。现在,从产出到通胀的传输过程已经削弱,货币刺激的效果减弱。

这意味着,在充分就业的情况下,资产购买和负实际利率增政策不会产生多少弥补效果。它们不再影响货币政策的有效性,实际上它们从来都不是货币政策的永久特征,只是用来稳定危机时全球金融系统的权宜之计。位于漩涡的中心是全球银行,它们有很高的杠杆率、完善的衍生产品和未知的交易违约风险。现在美国大部分银行都通过了压力测试,金融领域可以不靠补给而独立维持下去,这让美联储松了一口气。美联储公开市场委员会没有关注金融系统的安全和健康,而是制定了为膨胀的资产负债表和负利率解绑的路线图。

另一个变化的经济参数是美联储需要改变其有效货币政策的里程碑,旧有的标准已经不起作用。金融市场最大的不确定性是:1)中性政策利率;2)这种规模下的联邦资产负债表的终极目标;3)美联储达到新指标的利率;4)经济的实际增长率。关于中性利率,美联储公开委员会的行动缓慢,但不可阻挡地接近0-0.5%的实际利率,尽管在他们的政策利率预测中显示了较高的区间,这意味着在某一点上,政策实际会收紧,收益曲线可能倒置。内部研究显示新的中性利率区间为0-1%。

包括Lael Brainard和John Williamson在内的美联储公开市场委员会成员特别强调缩表而不是实现新的中性利率,以此减少对美元的影响。这个逻辑似乎很有道理,但这里的假设是利差交易通过利率差额会支配其他所有因素,而如果其他央行按照美联储的号召实行政策标准化,就像英格兰银行和加拿大银行正在做的那样,这个假设就是不成立的。欧洲央行可能也紧随其后。

这个规模的资产负债表的终极目标还没有确定,预期是2.5-4.2万亿美元。2.5万亿足以管理美联储的运营,4.2万亿似乎有些超额。到2021年底,资产负债表将达到新的中值3.2万亿美元。美联储这样渐次抽身所产生的市场影响力几乎是感知不到的——10年期债券收率每年增长15个基本点。类似的,联邦基金利率已经达到新中值的一半,按照目前的速度估计到2018年底会达到目标。这些下滑路线非常缓慢,甚至被称为是“枯燥的”,“就像等油漆干”。在欧洲和日本,央行的退出更困难,将对金融市场形成考验,特别是现在美国经济已经达到临界点,产出已经达到了可持续潜力,因此货币或财政政策面临严重的长期后果。如果美国经济的可持续发展率下降到2%以下,那么美联储和几乎所有人都会非常失望。

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