经济学人双语版-险恶冲击 V is for vicious

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FlyTitle: Financial conditions

How to make sense of the mayhem in markets

如何解读市场的混乱

WHEN FACED with a bewildering shock it is natural to turn to your own experience. As covid-19 rages, investors and officials are scrambling to make sense of the violent moves in financial markets over the past two weeks. For many the obvious reference is the crisis of 2007-09. There are indeed some similarities. Stockmarkets have plunged. The oil price has tumbled below $40 a barrel. There has been a flurry of emergency interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and other central banks. Traders are on a war footing—with a rising number working from their kitchen tables. Still, the comparison with the last big crisis is misplaced. It also obscures two real financial dangers that the pandemic has inflamed.

当出现纷乱的冲击时,人们自然会诉诸于自身经验。随着新冠肺炎肆虐全球,投资者和官员们正忙不迭地探究过去两周金融市场为何剧烈波动。对许多人来说,一个明显的参照就是2007年至2009年的金融危机。两者确实有相似之处。股市暴跌,石油价格已跌破每桶40美元。美联储和多国央行纷纷紧急降息。交易员进入战备状态(越来越多的人以自家厨房的工作台为阵地)。尽管如此,将眼下的状况与上一次大危机相提并论是不恰当的,而且也模糊了全球疫病大流行点燃的两个真正的金融风险。

The severity of the shock so far does not compare with 2007-09. Stockmarkets have fallen by a fifth from their peak, compared with a 59% drop in the mortgage crisis. The amount of toxic debt is limited and easy to identify. Some 15% of non-financial corporate bonds were issued by oil firms or others hit hard by the virus, such as airlines and hotels. The banking system, stuffed with capital, has yet to seize up; interbank lending rates are under control. When investors panic about the end of civilisation they rush into the dollar, the reserve currency. That has not yet happened.

到目前为止,此番冲击的严重程度还比不上2007年至2009年的情形。股市从最高峰下跌了五分之一,而当年次贷危机时下跌了59%。目前出现的不良贷款数量有限且易于识别。非金融企业债券中约15%是由石油公司或航空公司和酒店等受疫情打击严重的公司发行的。银行体系资本充沛,尚未运转失灵;银行同业拆借利率处于可控范围。投资者在恐慌末日到来时往往会涌向作为储备货币的美元,而这种情况尚未发生。

The nature of the shock is different, too. The 2007-09 crisis came from within the financial system, whereas the virus is primarily a health emergency. Markets are usually spooked when there is uncertainty about the outlook six or 12 months out, even when things seem calm at the time—think of asset prices dropping in early 2008, long before most subprime mortgage borrowers defaulted. Today, the time horizon is inverted: it is unclear what will happen in the next few weeks, but fairly certain that within six months the threat will have abated.

这次冲击的性质也与上次不同。2007年至2009年的危机来自金融系统内部,而这次新冠疫情主要是一次公共卫生紧急事件。当未来6至12个月存在不确定性时,市场通常会惊慌失措,即使当下看来一切还风平浪静,例如2008年初的资产价格骤跌,而当时次贷违约尚未大规模出现。这一次,时间表却倒转了:未来几周情况会如何还不得而知,却可以相当肯定六个月内威胁将减轻。

经济学人双语版-险恶冲击 V is for vicious

Instead of tottering Wall Street banks or defaults on Florida condos, two other risks loom. The first is a temporary cash crunch at a very broad range of companies around the world as quarantines force them to shut offices and factories. A crude “stress test” based on listed companies suggests that 10-15% of firms might face liquidity problems. Corporate-bond markets, which demand precise contractual terms and regular payments, are not good at bridging this kind of short but precarious gap.

此次的问题并非华尔街的银行摇摇欲坠或佛罗里达的公寓出现房贷违约,而是浮现出另外两种风险。首先是全球各地有众多不同行业的企业因为隔离措施而被迫关闭办公室和工厂,导致暂时性现金紧缺。对上市公司所做的粗略“压力测试”表明,有10%至15%的公司可能面临资金周转问题。合同条款一丝不苟且须定期还款付息的企业债券市场并不适于弥合这种短暂但不稳定的缺口。

In 2007-09 the authorities funnelled cash to the financial system by injecting capital into banks, guaranteeing their liabilities and stimulating bond markets. This time the challenge is to get cash to companies. This is easy in China, where most banks are state-controlled and do as they are told. Credit there grew by 11% in February compared with the previous year. In the West, where banks are privately run, it will take enlightened managers, rule tweaks and jawboning from regulators to encourage lenders to show clients forbearance. Governments need to be creative about using tax breaks and other giveaways to get cash to hamstrung firms. While America dithered, Britain set a good example in last week’s budget.

在2007年至2009年的危机中,官方向银行注资,为其债务提供担保并刺激债券市场,从而把资金注入金融系统。这次的挑战是给企业提供现金支持。在中国这很好办,因为大多数银行都是国有的,听命于政府指示。中国2月份的信贷较去年同期上升了11%。在西方,银行是私有的,需要有开明的管理人加上法规的微调及监管机构施压才能促使贷款方给予客户宽限。各国政府需要发挥创意,利用税收减免和其他补助措施为周转不灵的企业注入资金。美国还在犹豫不决之际,英国在上周的预算中做出了好榜样。

The second area to watch is the euro zone. It is barely growing, if at all. Central-bank interest rates are already below zero. Its banks are healthier than they were in 2008 but still weak compared with their American cousins. Judged by the cost of insuring against default, there are already jitters in Italy, the one big economy where banks’ funding costs have jumped. As we went to press, the European Central Bank was meeting to discuss its virus response. The danger is that it, national governments and regulators fail to work together.

第二个需要关注的领域是欧元区。目前欧元区内经济近乎停滞。央行利率已经低于零。欧元区的银行比2008年时健康,但与美国的银行相比仍然孱弱。意大利这个大经济体的银行融资成本已经攀升,鉴于违约保险成本之高,意大利国内已惶惶不安。在本刊于上周四付印之时,欧洲央行正开会讨论对病毒的应对措施。危险在于欧洲央行、各国政府和监管机构不能协力应对。

Every financial shock is different. In 1930 central banks let banks fail. In 2007 few people had heard of the subprime mortgages that were about to blow up. This financial shock does not yet belong in that company. But the virus scare of 2020 does create financial risks that need to be treated—fast.■

金融冲击次次不同。1930年,各国央行坐视银行破产。2007年,即将引爆危机的次级贷款对很多人来说还是个新名词。这次的金融冲击还不属于那种情况。但2020年的病毒恐慌确实制造了金融风险,亟待诊治。

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