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2007-01-02 10:05:05|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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如果你懂英文,并对美国经济有兴趣,一定读这篇文章:
 

WSJCommentary
Embrace the Deficit (and the Capital Surplus that goes with it) ByDavid Malpass Dec. 21, 2006;

Fordecades, the trade deficit has been a political and journalisticlightning rod, inspiring countless predictions of America'simminent economic collapse. The reality is different. Our importsgrow with our economy and population while our exports grow withforeign economies, especially those of industrialized countries.Though widely criticized as an imbalance, the trade deficit andrelated capital inflow reflect U.S. growth, not weakness--they linkthe younger, faster-growing U.S. with aging, slower-growingeconomies abroad.

Sincethe 2001 recession, the U.S. economy has created 9.3 million newjobs, compared with 360,000 in Japan and 1.1 million in the eurozone excluding Spain. This despite our trade deficit and theirtrade surpluses. Like the U.S., Spain (3.6 million new jobs) andthe U.K. (1.3 million new jobs) ran trade deficits and created jobsrapidly in this five-year period. Wages are rising solidly in thesethree. The economics is clear (for once) that a liberal tradingenvironment allows more jobs with higher wages as peoplespecialize.

Thelatest data on growth in jobs, retail sales and housing starts, andthe record level of household savings, underscores the solideconomy described by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last month.Supporting the "solid-growth" view are rising global stock markets,strong growth of corporate profits, the narrow credit spreadbetween Treasurys and riskier bonds, and low interest ratesrelative to inflation and to growth--nominal growth in the 12months through September was 6%, yet the Fed funds rate, usually inline with nominal growth, only averaged 4.6%.

Thetrade deficit and a low "personal savings rate" are key parts ofthe bond market's multi-year pessimism about the U.S. growthoutlook. But just as the high level of U.S. savings is likely toadd to future growth--the savings rate is only low if youarbitrarily exclude gains--the trade deficit and heavy capitalinflows are also positive parts of the growth outlook. Rather thansignaling a slowdown, the inversion of the yieldcurve--"Greenspan's conundrum," in which bond yields are lowdespite solid growth and rising inflation--is probably the resultof this deep underestimate of the U.S. growth outlook, plentifulliquidity, and a backward-looking deflation premium for bonds, thereverse of the backward-looking inflation premium that kept bondyields unusually high in the 1980s.

Thecommon perception is that Americans drive the trade deficit in anunhealthy way by spending more than we produce. To make up thedifference, foreigners ship us things on credit. This sounds bad,but should be evaluated in terms of our demographics, lowunemployment rate, attractiveness to foreign investment and risinghousehold savings.

Therecent surge in the U.S. trade deficit reflects, in part, theunprecedented shift in the demographics of the world's largeeconomies. The under-60 U.S. population is expected to grow for atleast 50 years while the under-60 populations in Japan and Europeare already declining and in China will turn down within a decade.They need bonds while Americans need capital. They want to savemore than they invest in their own economies, and are eager to helpus invest more heavily (through their purchase of bonds.) Thismakes good demographic sense. Older investors (concentrated abroad)need steady returns, lending to younger generations through bankdeposits, bond purchases and life insurance premiums (which arereinvested in growth). Younger people (concentrated in the U.S.)need cash and debt for college degrees, houses and businessstartups. This creates a healthy synergy across generations andacross borders.

Likeyoung households, many companies also spend more than they produce,using bonds and bank loans, some from foreigners, to make up thedifference. They add employees, machines, supplies and advertisingbefore they produce. Growing corporations are expected to be cashhungry. This leverage is treated as a positive for companies but anegative for countries, a key inconsistency in popular economics.Rather than paying the debt back, the growing company rolls thedebt over and adds more, just as the U.S. has been doing throughoutmost of its prosperous economic history. Part of each additionalbond offering puts the company and the U.S. in the position ofinvesting more than we save, drawing in foreign investment andcontributing to the trade deficit.

Withall the negativism about the U.S. economy, it's easy to forget itsattractiveness. Foreigners are as eager to invest in the U.S. as weare to buy goods and services from them--it's a two-way street. Our10-year government bonds yield 4.6% per year versus 1.6% in Japan,while our government debt is 38% of GDP versus 86% in Japan. Thecomparisons with Europe are not as extreme as Japan's, but stillheavily favor the U.S.

Whilethe net foreign debt of the U.S. is growing (the result of capitalinflows), household net worth is growing faster, meaning foreignersare investing in the U.S. too slowly and conservatively to keep upwith our growth. Their capital mingles with domestic savings,providing $2.7 trillion of net international capital to combinewith $27 trillion in net U.S. household financial savings as ofSept. 30.

Thealready-large foreign demand for investments in the U.S. is likelyto grow from here, putting upward pressure on the trade deficiteven if foreign growth continues to accelerate. The U.S. offers arelatively high and steady return on investment--high because ofthe innovation and growth taking place here, steady because thecommodity and manufacturing parts of many businesses areincreasingly done abroad, reducing the volatility in U.S. growth.Equally important, the demographics of the world's large economiesare shifting rapidly in favor of the U.S.

Thetrade deficit is the mechanism allowing consumption and investmentin the U.S. to grow faster than in Europe and Japan. The issue forthe U.S. is whether it's worth the interest costs. It's the samequestion facing a small business: Should it borrow money to expandthe payroll, train employees, buy land and machines, conductR&D, build inventory? Profit and credit-worthiness help makethe decision.

Thepost-election dollar weakness pleased those who still think theU.S. is heading in the wrong economic direction. They advocate aweaker dollar as medicine for the trade deficit, often blaming itfor more economic problems than we actually have.

Butthe trade deficit, around for hundreds of years of solid Americangrowth, doesn't justify the inflation risk from dollar weakness orthe growth risk from protectionism. And the trade deficit probablywouldn't respond to a weaker dollar anyway--yen strength hasn'tdented Japan's trade surplus, and it took a recession to create ourlast trade surplus in 1990-1991.

Theswing vote on the dollar, and probably the controlling vote, is Fedpolicy. For now, this leaves unresolved the market debate overwhether the U.S. will encourage dollar weakness and inflation in aneffort to fight the trade deficit. More likely the Fed will fightinflation, strengthening the dollar, and leaving the trade deficitdependent on U.S. growth and demographics--right where it shouldbe.

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