[2008.08.23] 经济聚焦:从”失去的十年”中学习

Economics focus

Lessons from a “lost decade”

Aug 21st 2008
From The Economist print edition

Will America follow Japan into a decade of stagnation?

AS FALLING house prices and tightening credit squeeze America’s economy, some worry that the country may suffer a decade of stagnation, as Japan did after its bubble burst in the early 1990s. Japan’s property bubble was also fuelled by cheap money and financial liberalisation and-just as in America-most people assumed that property prices could not fall nationally. When they did, borrowers defaulted and banks cut their lending. The result was a decade with average growth of less than 1%.

Most dismiss the idea that America could suffer the same fate as Japan, but some of the differences are overstated. For example, some claim that Japan’s bubble was much bigger than America’s. Yet average house prices nationwide rose by 90% in America between 2000 and 2006, compared with a gain of 51% in Japan between 1985 and early 1991, when Japanese home prices peaked (see left-hand chart). Prices in Japan’s biggest cities rose faster, but nationwide figures matter more when gauging the impact on the economy. Japanese home prices have since fallen by just over 40%. American prices are already down by 20%, and many economists reckon they could fall by another 10% or more.
大部分人都不太在意这样的观点:美国可能经历像日本一样的命运,但是一些区别被夸大了。例如,一些人认为日本的泡沫要比美国的大很多。然而,从2000年到2006年,全美房屋价格上涨了90%,而日本房价从85年开始到91年初达到顶峰,六年间只上涨了51%(如左表)。日本那些大城市的房价上涨要更快,但是对测定房价对经济影响更重要的则是全国的房价数据。日本房价从高点下落以来跌去仅 40%多,而美国房价已经下跌了20%,并且很多经济学家预计房价还会跌去10%或者更多。

What about commercial property? Again, average prices rose by less in Japan (80%) than in America (90%) over those same periods. Thus Japan’s property boom was, if anything, smaller than America’s. Japan also had a stockmarket bubble, which burst a year earlier than that in property. This hurt banks, because they counted part of their equity holdings in other firms as capital. But its impact on households was modest, because only 30% of the population held shares, compared with over half of Americans.

Nor were Japanese policymakers any slower than American ones to cut interest rates and loosen fiscal policy after the bubble burst, contrary to popular misconceptions. The Bank of Japan (BoJ) began to lower interest rates in July 1991, soon after property prices began to decline. The discount rate was cut from 6% to 1.75% by the end of 1993. Two years after American house prices started to slide, the Fed funds rate has fallen from 5.25% to 2% (see right-hand chart). A study by America’s Federal Reserve concluded that Japanese interest rates fell more sharply in the early 1990s than required by the “Taylor rule”, which establishes the appropriate rate using the amount of spare capacity and inflation.
与通常的误解相反,在泡沫破灭后,日本的政策制定者迅速地采取降低利率和宽松的财政政策措施,这一点不比美国慢。房地产价格一开始下降,日本银行就于 1991年7月开始降低利率。到1993年末,日本的贴现率从6%下降到1.75%。而美国在房价下跌两年之后,联邦基金利率从5.25%下降到了2% (如右图)。美联储的研究表明,日本的利率水平在上个世纪90年代早期下降的要比泰勒规则所要求的多很多,泰勒规则是通过闲置生产能力的数量和通胀的情况来确定出适当的利率水平。

Japan also gave its economy a big fiscal boost. The cyclically adjusted budget deficit (which excludes the automatic impact of slower growth on tax revenues) increased by an annual average of 1.8% of GDP in 1992 and 1993-similar to America’s budget boost this year. Japan’s monetary and fiscal stimulus did help to lift the economy. After a recession in 1993-94, GDP was growing at an annual rate of around 2.5% by 1995. But deflation also emerged that year, pushing up real interest rates and increasing the real burden of debt. It was from here on that Japan made its biggest policy mistakes. In 1997 the government raised its consumption tax to try to slim its budget deficit. And with interest rates close to zero, the BoJ insisted that there was nothing more it could do. Only much later did it start to print lots of money.

America’s inflation rate of above 5% is an advantage. Not only are real interest rates negative, but inflation is also helping to bring the housing market back to fair value with a smaller fall in prices than otherwise. But in another way America is more exposed than Japan was. When its bubble burst in 1991, Japan’s households saved 15% of their income. By 2001 saving had fallen to 5%, which helped to prop up consumer spending. America’s saving rate of close to zero leaves no such cushion.

The perils of procrastination

John Makin, at the American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank, argues that monetary and fiscal relief were necessary but not sufficient to revive Japan’s economy. The missing ingredient was a clean-up of the banking system, on which Japanese firms were more dependent than their American counterparts. Japanese banks hid their bad loans beneath opaque corporate structures, and curtailed new lending to profitable businesses. A vicious circle developed, whereby banks’ bad loans depressed growth which then created more bad loans.
一智囊团–美国企业研究所的John Makin认为货币和财政上的调节是必要的,但不足以使日本经济复兴。日本最缺失的要素是银行系统的大清理,这也使日本企业比他们的美国同行更加依赖银行。日本银行把他们的坏账隐藏于不透明的公司治理结构下,并缩减了对那些利润丰厚业务的贷款。一个恶性循环就这样开始了,银行坏账拖累经济增长,而反过来又产生更多坏账。

In another new report Richard Jerram, at Macquarie Securities, concludes that America “will not come close to repeating the experience of Japan”, because its regulatory system, financial markets and political structure will not let it procrastinate for so long. America has a more transparent regulatory structure which presses banks into recognising losses and repairing their balance-sheets-even if regulators were slow to recognise that the banks were shifting risky securitised assets off their balance-sheets in the first place. But Japan’s regulators for a long while were in cahoots with banks over hiding their bad loans.
麦格理证券Richard Jerram的一份新的研究报告表明:美国不会重走日本的老路。因为美国的监管体系、金融市场和政治结构不会像日本拖延的那么久。美国有着更加透明的监管组织,它会迫使银行发现损失并弥补修复资产表–即使监管当局可能会稍晚发现银行将那些有风险的证券资产转移出资产负债表外。而日本的监管者很长一段时间以来则与银行狼狈为奸,共同隐藏坏帐。

Over the past year, American banks have been quicker than those in Japan in the 1990s to disclose and write off losses and raise new capital. In Japan it took a long while before the political will was there to use taxpayers’ money to plug the banking system. A big test for America’s Treasury will be how quickly it recognises the need to nationalise Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the teetering mortgage giants.


One advantage over Japan, says Mr Jerram, is that America is spreading the costs of its housing bust across other countries. Foreigners hold a large slice of American mortgage-backed securities. Sovereign-wealth funds have provided new capital for American banks. And America’s booming exports have helped to support its economy, thanks to the cheap dollar. In contrast, the yen’s sharp appreciation after Japan’s bubble burst hurt exports at the same time as domestic demand was being squeezed.


By learning from Japan’s mistakes, America can avoid a dismal decade. However, it would be arrogant for those in Washington, DC, to assume that Japan’s troubles simply reflected its macroeconomic incompetence. Experience in other countries shows that serious asset-price busts often lead to economic downturns lasting several years. Only a wild optimist would believe that the worst is over in America.


译者:jyjnl   http://www.ecocn.org/forum/viewthread.php?tid=13473&extra=page%3D1

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