domenica 11 aprile 2010

Come riformare il sistema? Le lezioni della crisi della Grecia e la fine dell'era dei bassi tassi di interesse. Aggiornamento al 9 aprile 2010.

Il direttore del FMI Dominique Strauss-Kahn incita i paesi ad una riforma finanziaria coordinata e condivisa:
secondo il Wall Street Journal:

In a speech in Cambridge on Saturday, Mr. Strauss-Kahn said that, as the world economy becomes more interconnected, international policy coordination will be important to secure "stable, strong and balanced" economic growth.
He also cautioned that global economic imbalances are likely to widen again unless policies are implemented that encourage new sources of growth to emerge.
(...) Mr. Strauss-Kahn acknowledged the importance of plans to handle large and complex financial—so-called too-big-to-fail—institutions, but noted that proposed mechanisms may be limited by national borders.
Strauss-Kahn non ha fatto commenti sulla situazione in Grecia ma si è ugualmente sbilanciato sul problema del debito sovrano e sulla necessità di prevedere meccanismi che ne impediscano la crescita incontrollata: 
(...) he underscored the need to do more to prevent public debt from building up to high levels in the future, by more aggressively using cyclical upswings to refinance debt, via medium-term fiscal frameworks, credible commitments to reducing debt-to-GDP ratios, fiscal rules with escape clauses for recessions, and transparent fiscal data.
Automatic stabilizers could also be refined.
"One idea would be to let certain taxes or transfers be triggered when a threshold value for a particular macroeconomic variable, such as GDP growth, is crossed," Mr. Strauss-Kahn said.
As an example, he suggested that governments could activate temporary measures such as a flat, refundable tax rebate, or a percentage reduction in a taxpayer's liability to help spending by low-income households.
"To support investment by firms, cyclical investment tax credits might help. Similarly, on the expenditure side, one can think of temporary transfers targeted at low-income or liquidity-constrained households," he said.

Nel frattempo i ministri delle finanze della zona euro discutono come salvare la Grecia dal default, precisando le modalità di intervento concordate nel piano del 25 marzo scorso.

Sulle colonne del New York Times Paul Krugman cerca di trarre qualche lezione dalla crisi della Grecia; oltre alla disciplina fiscale punta il dito sulla deflazione come principale motore della crisi:

(...) Greece is paying the price for past fiscal irresponsibility. Yet that’s by no means the whole story. The Greek tragedy also illustrates the extreme danger posed by a deflationary monetary policy. And that’s a lesson one hopes American policy makers will take to heart. (...)

Greece could alleviate some of its problems by leaving the euro, and devaluing. But it’s hard to see how Greece could do that without triggering a catastrophic run on its banking system. Indeed, worried depositors have already begun pulling cash out of Greek banks. There are no good answers here — actually, no nonterrible answers.
But what are the lessons for America? Of course, we should be fiscally responsible. What that means, however, is taking on the big long-term issues, above all health costs — not grandstanding and penny-pinching over short-term spending to help a distressed economy.
Equally important, however, we need to steer clear of deflation, or even excessively low inflation. Unlike Greece, we’re not stuck with someone else’s currency. But as Japan has demonstrated, even countries with their own currencies can get stuck in a deflationary trap.
What worries me most about the U.S. situation right now is the rising clamor from inflation hawks, who want the Fed to raise rates (and the federal government to pull back from stimulus) even though employment has barely started to recover. If they get their way, they’ll perpetuate mass unemployment. But that’s not all. America’s public debt will be manageable if we eventually return to vigorous growth and moderate inflation. But if the tight-money people prevail, that won’t happen — and all bets will be off.

Come hanno fatto i consumatori USA a reggere (fino al 2007) un indebitamento sempre crescente? La spiegazione è nei tassi di interesse decrescenti: ecco un grafico dal New York Times di oggi che bene illustra la dinamica del debito personale USA negli ultimi 50 anni

L'era del credito facile è finita, e anche i tassi si preparano a risalire: secondo il NYTimes:

Even as prospects for the American economy brighten, consumers are about to face a new financial burden: a sustained period of rising interest rates. (...)
“Americans have assumed the roller coaster goes one way,” said Bill Gross, whose investment firm, Pimco, has taken part in a broad sell-off of government debt, which has pushed up interest rates. “It’s been a great thrill as rates descended, but now we face an extended climb.”
The impact of higher rates is likely to be felt first in the housing market (...) Each increase of 1 percentage point in rates adds as much as 19 percent to the total cost of a home, (...) Another area in which higher rates are likely to affect consumers is credit card use. (...) 
The run-up in rates is quickening as investors steer more of their money away from bonds and as Washington unplugs the economic life support programs that kept rates low through the financial crisis. Mortgage rates and car loans are linked to the yield on long-term bonds.
Besides the inflation fears set off by the strengthening economy, Mr. Gross said he was also wary of Treasury bonds because he feared the burgeoning supply of new debt issued to finance the government’s huge budget deficits would overwhelm demand, driving interest rates higher.
Nine months ago, United States government debt accounted for half of the assets in Mr. Gross’s flagship fund, Pimco Total Return. That has shrunk to 30 percent now — the lowest ever in the fund’s 23-year history — as Mr. Gross has sold American bonds in favor of debt from Europe, particularly Germany, as well as from developing countries like Brazil.

Last week, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note briefly crossed the psychologically important threshold of 4 percent, as the Treasury auctioned off $82 billion in new debt. (...)
Though still very low by historical standards, the rise of bond yields since then is reversing a decline that began in 1981, when 10-year note yields reached nearly 16 percent.
From that peak, steadily dropping interest rates have fed a three-decade lending boom, during which American consumers borrowed more and more but managed to hold down the portion of their income devoted to paying off loans. (...)

The long decline in rates also helped prop up the stock market; lower rates for investments like bonds make stocks more attractive.
That tailwind, which prevented even worse economic pain during the recession, has ceased, according to interviews with economists, analysts and money managers.
“We’ve had almost a 30-year rally,” said David Wyss, chief economist for Standard & Poor’s. “That’s come to an end.”

Ecco l'aggiornamento al 9 aprile 2010

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