FT社评:美国债券牛市必将终结吗? - 听力课堂
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FT社评:美国债券牛市必将终结吗?

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2018年02月11日

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Markets are complex. They aggregate millions of individual decisions, each responding to an economic environment that is wickedly complicated. People, by contrast, seek simplicity. We search for patterns, and insist that life is made up of stories with beginnings, middles and ends. We often see patterns that are not even there.

市场是复杂的。它们汇集了无数的个人决策,每个决策都是对极端复杂的经济环境做出的回应。相比之下,人们喜欢追求简单化。我们在寻找模式,并坚信生活是由开头、剧中和结局的叙事构成的。我们经常找出一些甚至根本不存在的模式。

At the moment, there is an extremely simple, compelling and popular narrative about the US bond market. It goes something like this:

当下出现了一种针对美国债券市场极为简单、有说服力且颇为流行的叙事。叙述如下:

In 2017 we had a year of synchronised global economic growth, and the US followed the global pattern. This year, the US economy will be further stimulated by a large, deficit-funded tax cut. Unemployment is already low. Before much longer, therefore, wage growth will awaken from its long slumber. Inflation expectations and, in turn, actual inflation will follow. This will keep the Federal Reserve wedded to its plan of raising rates three times this year. At the same time, the Fed will continue to reduce its bond holdings, unwinding the quantitative easing programme. Resurgent inflation, higher short rates and less government purchasing of long bonds will end the longest-standing cyclical trend in finance: the 37-year bull market in bonds.

2017年,全球经济实现了同步增长,而美国紧跟这一全球模式。今年,美国经济将进一步受到大规模、赤字襄助的减税政策的刺激。失业率早已处于低位。因此,用不了多长时间,工资增长将从长期沉睡中复苏。通胀预期以及实际通胀将随之复苏。这将促使美联储(Fed)坚持今年三次加息的计划。与此同时,美联储将继续降低其债券持有量,解除量化宽松计划。通胀再度抬头、短期利率上升和政府减少购买长期债券,将终结金融领域中持续时间最长的周期性趋势:延续37年的债券牛市。

There are good reasons to believe this story. The simplest is that yields are, in fact, rising: the 10-year Treasury, at just under 2.6 per cent, is up 50 basis points since September and more than 100 basis points since the mid-2016 bottom. The jittery expectation of higher yields (which is to say, lower bond prices) was evident on Wednesday, when yields bounced, apparently in response to speculation that China planned to limit its purchases of US debt (the speculation turned out to have little grounding in fact).

有充足的理由相信这一叙事。最简单的一点是,收益率实际在上升:仅略低于2.6%的10年期美国国债收益率,自去年9月以来上涨了50个基点,自2016年中期以来累计上涨逾100个基点。周三,当债券收益率出现反弹时——显然是对中国计划限制购买美国国债的猜测的回应(事实证明这一猜测没有什么依据)——对收益率上升(即债券价格下跌)的紧张不安预期已经很明显了。

Companies are brimming with optimism, according to surveys. When the tax cut was passed various companies, including AT&T and Walmart, announced plans to pass the largesse on to workers in the form of higher wages or bonuses. Meanwhile, some of the biggest names in bond management are publicly stating the good times are over.

种种调查显示,企业界充满了乐观情绪。减税法案通过后,包括美国电话电报公司(AT&T)、沃尔玛(Walmart)在内的很多企业纷纷宣布计划以增加工资或奖金的形式把省下的钱发放给员工。与此同时,债券管理领域一些最知名的公司公开表示,好日子已经结束。

Any story this tidy and this popular should be doubted on principle. Its ubiquity is evidence that it has taken on a life of its own. Let us, then, rehearse some of the reasons it might fall to pieces in the year ahead. The most obvious point is that wage inflation may stay in its coma. After the way unemployment and inflation have come apart in recent years, to continue to insist that we have a firm understanding of their relationship would be arrogance. There may, for example, be more slack left in the economy than it appears, keeping inflation tame even if demand gets a kick.

原则上,任何如此完美、流行的叙事都应受到质疑。它的无处不在证明了其自身已经具有生命力。那么,让我们预判一下这一叙事在未来一年可能破灭的一些原因吧。最明显的一点是,工资增长或将继续处于停滞状态。自近几年失业率和通胀失去关联之后,继续坚称我们完全理解它们之间的关系,将是一种傲慢。例如,经济可能会出现实际比看上去萧条的局面,在这种情况下,即使刺激需求,通胀仍会保持温和水平。

Next, it may be that even as QE unwinds, ageing demographics and the attendant glut of savings will keep long rates very low. It is worth noting in this context that in real terms, the US is an outlier. Its interest rates are higher than almost everywhere else in the developed world.

其次,有可能即便退出量化宽松政策,人口老龄化和随之而来的储蓄过剩仍将使长期利率维持在非常低的水平。在这一背景下值得注意的是,实际上美国是一个例外。美国的利率比几乎所有发达国家都高。

Finally, US growth may simply disappoint — either because policymakers tighten rates too quickly or for some other reason. There was lively debate about the size of the stimulative effect the tax cut would have on the real economy. That debate has not been resolved simply because the growth prospects look good now, before the cuts have even come through.

最后,美国经济增长可能只会令人失望——或是因为政策制定者过快收紧利率,或者是出于其他原因。关于减税对实体经济刺激效应的规模,也存在着激烈的争论。这一争论不会仅仅是因为现在经济增长前景看起来不错(甚至在减税成功实施前)就自动化解。

Economic narratives have real economic effects. Widespread belief that inflation is inevitable makes inflation more likely. Still, the history of economic forecasting encourages modesty and, in the bond market, a simple story is never the whole story.

经济叙事会造成真实的经济效应。普遍相信通胀不可避免会导致通胀更有可能发生。尽管如此,经济预测的历史鼓励稳重适度,而在债券市场,一个简单的叙事永远不可能是全部叙事。
 


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