L'Economist di questa settimana dedica un approfondimento allo stato di salute dell'economia U.S.A.: l'articolo di apertura è moderatamente ottimista:
The most wrenching recession since the 1930s ended a year ago. But the recovery—none too powerful to begin with—slowed sharply earlier this year. (...) Fears grew over the summer that if this deceleration continued, America’s economy would slip back into recession.
Fortunately, those worries now seem exaggerated. Part of the weakness of second-quarter GDP was probably because of a temporary surge in imports from China. The latest statistics, from reasonably good retail sales in August to falling claims for unemployment benefits, point to an economy that, though still weak, is not slumping further. And history suggests that although nascent recoveries often wobble for a quarter or two, they rarely relapse into recession. For now, it is most likely that America’s economy will crawl along with growth at perhaps 2.5%: above stall speed, but far too slow to make much difference to the jobless rate (see article).
Why, given that America usually rebounds from recession, are the prospects so bleak? Because most past recessions have been caused by tight monetary policy. When policy is loosened, demand rebounds. This recession was the result of a financial crisis. Recoveries after financial crises are normally weak and slow as banking systems are repaired and balance-sheets rebuilt. Typically, this period of debt reduction lasts around seven years, which means America would emerge from it in 2014. By some measures, households are reducing their debt burdens unusually fast, but even optimistic seers do not think the process is much more than half over.
Secondo l'Economist il principale rischio per l'economia U.S.A. viene dall'apparente incapacità della politica di accettare alcuni dati di fatto e di organizzare una risposta coerente con gli strumenti che la politica fiscale e monetaria mette a disposizione. Sono d'accordo: seguo ogni giorno il dibattito su questi temi sui due principali quotidiani americani, tradizionalmente agli antipodi dal punto di vista delle posizioni politiche (il New York Times, liberal-democratico, e il Wall Street Journal, conservatore-repubblicano) e l'impressione è a volte sconfortante (e se lo dice un italiano...). Sono quindi d'accordo con le conclusioni dell'articolo del settimanale britannico
Americans are used to great distances. The sooner they, and their politicians, accept that the road to recovery will be a long one, the faster they will get there.
In questo articolo l'Economist approfondisce l'analisi concentrandosi sul rapporto tra il debito (delle famiglie e del Tesoro U.S.A.) e la debolezza della ripresa, attribuita alla distruzione del sistema bancario e finanziario provocata dalla crisi che, insieme al deleveraging (riduzione del debito) delle famiglie, contribuisce a deprimere i consumi e a ritardare la ripresa dell'occupazione:
Since the recovery began, the economy has grown at a rate of less than 3%. That is faster than its long-term potential, of about 2.5%, but America has woken from past deep recessions at rates of 6-8%. Job creation has thus been too feeble to bring down the unemployment rate, which at 9.6% is much as it was at the start of the recovery. “Progress has been painfully slow,” acknowledged Barack Obama on September 8th—not what a president likes saying less than two months before an election.
What makes this recovery different is that it follows a recession brought on by a financial crisis. A growing body of research has found that such recoveries tend to be slower than those after “normal” recessions. Prakash Kannan, an economist at the IMF, examined 83 recessions in 21 rich countries since 1970. In the first two years after normal recessions growth averaged 3.7%. After the 13 caused by crises, growth averaged 2.4%. America has been doing slightly better than this (see chart 1).
The Federal Reserve brought on most post-war recessions by raising interest rates to squeeze out inflation. When the Fed cut rates, demand revived. Financial crises interfere with the transmission of lower rates to private borrowers. People can’t or won’t borrow because the value of their collateral—in particular, houses—has fallen. Banks are less able to lend because their capital has been depleted by bad loans, or less willing because customers can’t meet tighter underwriting standards.
“Where we are in the economy shouldn’t be surprising,” says Vikram Pandit, chief executive of Citigroup. Mr Pandit sees only two sure things ahead: that American consumers will continue to cut their debt (deleverage, in financial argot) and that emerging markets will grow quickly. At Citi, transaction-service revenues, such as foreign-exchange and cash management for multinationals, are growing healthily while revenue from American consumer loans is shrinking.
La domanda che in molti si pongono è quanto tempo occorrerà aspettare prima che si torni a livelli più tonici di attività economica. Forse dai 4 ai 7 anni, anche se c'è chi è moderatamente più ottimista, sperando che non vi siano nuovi shock (esogeni ? oppure semplici errori della politica fiscale e di bilancio come una prematura politica di austerità? ) che fanno precitipare l'economia in una nuova recessione
How long will deleveraging take? In a recent paper Carmen Reinhart of the University of Maryland and her husband Vincent Reinhart of the American Enterprise Institute looked at 15 crises since 1977. They estimate that on average deleveraging lasted seven years, during which growth was a percentage point lower than in the decade before a crisis. If America follows this pattern, its GDP will grow by 2.4% for the next four to seven years. Because that roughly equals potential, job creation should only just match population growth: the unemployment rate won’t fall.
These calculations will be wrong if incomes stumble or consumers seek to save more than expected. The IMF notes that saving rates in Finland, Norway and Sweden ultimately rose by five to ten percentage points after housing busts in the late 1980s. America’s saving rate has gone up by four points so far.
More cheerfully, the Reinharts find that once economies start to grow after a crisis they tend not to slide back into recession without suffering some new shock. Spain, whose banking crisis began in 1977, was dragged back by global monetary tightening in the early 1980s. Countries recovering from the East Asian crisis of 1997-98 were hit by avian flu, the bursting of the American tech bubble and the economic effects of the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. Japan is a special case. It was shoved back into recession partly by its own policies: an ill-timed tax increase in 1997 and the (temporary) ending of the Bank of Japan’s zero-interest-rate policy in 2000.