Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Crisis en plena fuga

MUNICH - Por un tiempo, parecía que el programa de crédito de 1 billón de euros del Banco Central Europeo para inyectar liquidez al sistema bancario de Europa hubiera calmado a los mercados financieros globales. Pero ahora las tasas de interés de los bonos de los gobiernos italiano y español vuelven a subir, acercándose al 6%.

Por supuesto, puede que este no sea el punto de ruptura más allá del cual la carga de la deuda se hace insostenible. Después de todo, las tasas de interés en el sur de Europa estaban muy por encima del 10% en la década anterior a la introducción del euro. Incluso Alemania en ese tiempo tenía que pagar más del 6% a los tenedores de bonos. Sin embargo, los mercados están dando señales inequívocas de sus crecientes duda sobre si España e Italia estarán dispuestos a soportar la carga de su deuda.

El problema principal es España, donde la deuda externa privada y pública es mayor que las de Grecia, Portugal, Irlanda e Italia juntos y, como en Grecia, se acerca al 100% del PIB (93% para ser precisos). Una cuarta parte de la fuerza de trabajo y la mitad de los jóvenes están desempleados, lo que refleja la pérdida de competitividad del país tras la explosión de la burbuja inmobiliaria, inflada por el crédito barato en euros en el período anterior a la crisis. El déficit de cuenta corriente se mantiene en el 3,5% del PIB, a pesar de la disminución de las importaciones inducida por la recesión, mientras que la contracción económica hará que España vuelva a incumplir su objetivo de déficit presupuestario.

Más aún, la deuda de España con el sistema de liquidaciones TARGET del BCE aumentó en € 55 mil millones ($ 72 mil millones) entre febrero y marzo, ya que se hizo necesario compensar las salidas de capital equivalentes. Desde julio de 2011, la deuda española con el sistema TARGET ha crecido en € 199 mil millones. El capital se encuentra en plena fuga, compensando con creces los flujos de entrada de 2008-2010. Si se considera el total acumulado desde el comienzo del primer año de la crisis (2008), se concluye que el país ha financiado la totalidad de su déficit de cuenta corriente a través de la emisión de dinero.

El panorama no es mucho mejor en Italia, donde la balanza de cuenta corriente ha pasado de un superávit de alrededor del 2% del PIB a un déficit del 3% del PBI en los últimos diez años. La deuda del país con el sistema TARGET aumentó en € 76 mil millones entre febrero y marzo, y el total desde julio de 2011 llega a los € 276 mil millones. Italia también está sufriendo una gran fuga de capitales; de hecho, la huida de los inversores se aceleró después de la inyección de liquidez del BCE.

Hoy parece claro que el propio BCE ha provocado gran parte de la fuga de capitales de países como España e Italia, porque el crédito barato que ofreció alejó al capital privado. Su propósito era restablecer la confianza y lograr una recuperación del mercado interbancario. En esto tampoco ha tenido mucho éxito, a pesar de la enorme cantidad de dinero que puso sobre la mesa.

De hecho, ahora hasta los franceses parecen tambalearse. Con el capital que salió del país entre julio de 2011 y enero de 2012, la deuda de Francia con el sistema TARGET se elevó en € 95 mil millones. El país también ha perdido competitividad debido al crédito barato que significó el euro en sus primeros años. Según un reciente estudio realizado por Goldman Sachs, el nivel de precios francés debe bajar cerca del 20% frente a la media del euro (es decir, depreciar en términos reales) para que la economía recupere competitividad dentro de la eurozona.

Italia tendrá que depreciar en un 10-15% y España cerca de un 20%. Mientras Grecia y Portugal tienen que hacer frente a una deflación por un total de 30% y 35%, respectivamente, las cifras para España e Italia son lo suficientemente altas como para justificar los temores sobre el futuro desarrollo de la eurozona. Estos desequilibrios pueden corregirse sólo con grandes esfuerzos (y eso si es que se logra), y solo si se acepta una década de estancamiento. En cuanto a Grecia y Portugal, permanecer en la eurozona implicará enormes sacrificios.

Muchos solucionarían el problema otorgando crédito cada vez más barato a través de los canales públicos -fondos de rescate, eurobonos o el BCE- desde el sólido y estable núcleo de la eurozona hacia el turbulento sur. Sin embargo, con ello se obligaría injustamente a los ahorristas y contribuyentes de aquellos países a proporcionar capital al sur en condiciones que nunca aceptarían voluntariamente.

Hasta el momento se ha convertido el equivalente a 15.000, 17.000 y 21.000 euros de ahorros alemanes, holandeses y finlandeses por trabajador, respectivamente, desde inversiones transables a créditos de compensación del BCE. Nadie sabe lo que valdrán estos instrumentos si la eurozona llega a romperse.

Sin embargo, por encima de todo, la entrega pública y permanente de crédito barato llevaría en última instancia a Europa a sufrir una enfermedad persistente, si no un colapso económico, ya que la eurozona se convertiría en un sistema de gestión central con control estatal sobre la inversión. Estos sistemas no funcionan, ya que eliminan el mercado de capitales como principal mecanismo de dirección del sistema económico. Uno no puede dejar de admirarse ante la ligereza con que los políticos europeos han emprendido el descenso por esta pendiente resbaladiza.

Traducido del inglés por David Meléndez Tormen

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  1. CommentedRoman Bleifer

    We assure the hope that the current crisis is financial. Here we give the banks a trillion 1-2-3 and will overcome the crisis. Gave trillions, and the crisis is not over. And no improvement in sight. The more central and international banks have given loans to banks, the bigger speculative trading. A necessary investment in the real economy as there was no and no. We are looking for an analogy in the recent past crises, the Great Depression. Try recipes previously used, but they do not help. And all because this is not a financial crisis and the global systemic crisis ( http://crisismir.com/analiticheskie-materialy/ekonomika/13-mirovoj-ekonomicheskij-krizis-prichiny-i-posledstviya-quo-vadis.html ). This is a crisis of transition to a new system of production. If you find the correct analogy, then the analog would be the beginning of the formation of the capitalist machine production. New realities require new solutions. Old recipes do not work and will not work. They only aggravate the situation.

  2. CommentedWilliam Wallace

    There are some rather quick-and-dirty comparisons here, such as avoiding real rates of interest. No treatment is given to Spain's pre-crisis debt levels and the impact of French and German banks pumping investment into the Spanish housing bubble. The author then summarizes with a blanket condemnation of politicians.

    The fundamental weakness is of a single currency absent fiscal and labor unification. In the US, states hit harder by recession get automatic transfer payments (unemployment), with net flow from healthy areas to those that are doing poorly. In Europe, we merely get this sort of booing from the peanut gallery. Those who most benefited from the euro (Germany) now scoff at those who effectively made pre-crisis wealth transfers to them.

    No wonder Germany is entrenched in empty moralizing and is truly clueless about what is coming, if this is the caliber of discussion there. It scares me to see so many pundits today pimping analyses for a price.

    The "crisis in full flight" will lead to a "full fight" if we don't break this nasty habit of willful misdirection and, say, stick to the hard data.

  3. CommentedGreg A

    Once again, Mr Sinn gives us his narrow minded and short sighted views about the Euro crisis.

    He basically says that everyone needs to deflate massively which is completely unrealistic and very noxious economically. How about trying to have a higher inflation in Germany so that it is easier for other countries to regain competitiveness?

    He says that interest rates were much higher before the creation of the euro but that mainly reflected short term rates anticipations, not the risk premiums we are seeing now.

  4. CommentedFriedrich Böllhoff

    I wonder how long the citizens in the Euro area are willing to accept this mess with their currency. The Euro is convenient for holidaymakers. But all of us have a heavy price to pay. Southern Europeans are prevented from regaining competitiveness, getting jobs and generate income.
    Northerners work hard and hand over parts of their income to the rescue. Nobody should believe there, that those who save for their retirement could get back their money in full from over-indebted borrowers. If the liable party cannot pay, it will not pay.

  5. CommentedJulian Silk

    I think this is a fine article on the problems of the euro. But I just want to ask a question, which seems obvious to me. Members in the euro were admitted under the premise that they could sustain the policies prescribed. For Spain, this seems to be less and less likely. Why can't Spain be demoted from euro membership for a given period of time, say 5 years? During this time, Spain would agree to pay a tariff on international transactions with the euro countries (a Tobin tax), but would be allowed to re-establish its own currency. If you wanted to go further, you could have a Tobin tax rebate for euro countries that transacted with Spain, providing it met certain conditions, which might be decided by the World Bank or IMF as a neutral referee. These would be reparations of a sort. If maintaining the euro is as much in Spain's interest as it is of other countries, Spain will be willing to do this and take its own independent steps to recover fiscal balance.

  6. CommentedJohn Doe

    The information in this essay was extremely useful.

    However, Hans-Werner Sinn is equally disingenuous.

    First, he omits to explain why all this happened. Currency unions without political integration, as often explained (and best explained by Martin Jacomb in the FT) are doomed to failure. He ought to have affirmed that this entire mess was started by the slippery slope of rescue packages, it was started by the slippery slope of the Euro.

    Second, he implies that the Euro should break up, given the price adjustments needed in France, Spain, Italy, and Greece (and he doesn't even mention Eastern Europe). On this point what he doesn't say is disingenuous.

    Where does he stand on the question?

    He says that as to France, "These imbalances can be redressed only with great effort, if at all, and only if one accepts a decade of stagnation."

    Who would accept such. China, in 10 years, will be in the 22nd Century by comparison

  7. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    We are trying to cheat the system.
    It is like filling the petrol tank of a car where the engine has stopped, it does not work and the petrol tank is also leaking, but when we fill the tank we close our eyes and hope that a miracle would happen.
    This is not a Greek, Spanish or Italian problem, it is not even a European problem, simply the dominoes started falling starting with the "weakest" ones, but we can see even the previously galloping developing market countries have slowed down, and are expected to stop in their progress.
    This is why neither austerity nor further injections can work, and even the German solution, trying to stabilize the structure is futile, because even a stabilized structure is limp without the engine.
    The expansive, constant growth economic model is not sustainable, we live in a closed, finite system, which has now become totally interconnected and interdependent. Moreover our previous growth has been due to excessive, and mostly unnecessary production, producing and consuming goods that are needles and harmful. This machinery was kept going by a clever, sophisticated marketing machinery, but we played poker, always raising the stakes and we lost, as it turns out we do not have anything in our hands.
    We have to rethink the whole system, our basic attitude, the network we exist in, what laws operate in such analog, integral networks, and how a human being can contribute to the overall harmony and homeostasis of our network.
    All the scientific information is ready, we are only missing the willingness to put the puzzle together.

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