Tuesday, September 2, 2014
18

De la difficulté d’assouplir

NEW YORK - La décision de la Réserve fédérale américaine d'entreprendre un troisième cycle d'assouplissement quantitatif (« quantitative easing »), baptisé QE3, a soulevé trois questions importantes. Est-ce que QE3 pourra relancer la croissance économique anémique aux Etats-Unis ? Conduira-t-il à une hausse persistante des actifs risqués, en particulier aux États-Unis et dans d’autres marchés boursiers mondiaux ? Enfin, ses effets sur la croissance du PIB et des marchés boursiers seront-ils semblables ou différents ?

De nombreuses personnes estiment que l'effet de QE3 sur les actifs risqués devrait être aussi puissant, sinon plus, que ceux de QE1, QE2 et « Opération Twist », les programmes d’achat d’obligations précédents de la Fed. Après tout, les cycles précédents d’assouplissement de la politique monétaire américaine ont été associés à une augmentation persistante du cours des actions. Or, à la fois la taille et la durée de QE3 sont encore plus importantes. Pourtant, en dépit de l'engagement impressionnant de la Fed envers un assouplissement monétaire agressif, ses effets sur l'économie réelle et sur les actions américaines pourraient bel et bien se révéler plus limités et plus éphémères que ceux des opérations de quantitative easing (QE) précédentes.

Il faut d'abord noter que les cycles précédents de QE sont intervenus à des moments où la valorisation et les revenus des actions étaient beaucoup plus faibles qu’aujourd’hui. En Mars 2009, l’indice S&P 500 avait chuté à 660, le bénéfice par action (BPA) des sociétés et banques américaines était tombé au niveau le plus bas de la crise financière et les ratios cours sur bénéfices (C/B) étaient à un seul chiffre. Aujourd'hui, le S&P 500 est plus de 100% supérieur (planant à environ 1430), le BPA moyen est proche de 100$, et les ratios C/B sont au dessus de 14.

Même pendant QE2, à l'été 2010, le S&P 500, les ratios C/B, et le BPA étaient beaucoup plus faibles qu'ils ne le sont aujourd'hui. Si, comme il est fort probable, la croissance économique aux États-Unis reste anémique en dépit de QE3, les chiffres d'affaires et bénéfices nets piqueront du nez, avec des effets négatifs sur la valorisation des actions.

En outre, cette fois, le soutien budgétaire est absent : QE1 et QE2 ont contribué à empêcher une aggravation de la récession et à éviter une double récession, respectivement, parce que chacun a été accompagné par un stimulus budgétaire important. En revanche, QE3 sera associé à une contraction budgétaire, voire même une falaise fiscale de grande ampleur.

Même si les Etats-Unis évitent la véritable falaise fiscale de 4,5% du PIB qui se profile à la fin de l'année, il est fort probable qu'un freinage fiscal de l’ordre de 1,5% du PIB frappera de toute façon l'économie en 2013. Alors que l'économie américaine croît actuellement à un rythme annuel de 1,6%, un alourdissement même de 1% impliquerait une quasi-stagnation en 2013 ; toutefois, une reprise modeste des secteurs du logement et manufacturier, combinée à QE3, devrait maintenir la croissance des Etats-Unis proche de son niveau actuel en 2013.

Cependant, il n’y a aucun rebond supplémentaire à l’horizon. En 2010 et 2011, les principaux indicateurs économiques ont montré que le ralentissement avait touché le fond au premier semestre et que la croissance était déjà en train d’accélérer avant l'annonce des mesures d'assouplissement monétaire. Ainsi, ces dernières ont donné un coup de pouce à une économie qui avait déjà entamé sa récupération, ce qui a prolongé la relance des actifs.

En revanche, les données les plus récentes suggèrent que l'économie américaine stagne tout autant aujourd'hui que durant la première moitié de l'année. En fait, la faiblesse du marché du travail américain, des dépenses en capital et de la croissance des revenus, a plutôt contredit les signaux du début de l'été qui avaient prédit une croissance potentiellement plus robuste au troisième trimestre.

En même temps, les principaux canaux de transmission de relance monétaire vers l'économie réelle – les marchés des obligations, du crédit, des changes et des actions – restent faibles, s’ils ne sont pas rompus. En effet, il est fort peu probable que le canal du marché obligataire puisse stimuler la croissance. Les rendements des obligations d'État de long terme sont déjà très bas, et une réduction supplémentaire ne modifiera pas significativement les coûts d'emprunt des agents privés.

Le canal du crédit ne fonctionne pas non plus correctement, car les banques ont mis en réserve la plupart des liquidités supplémentaires introduites suite aux opérations de QE, constituant ainsi des réserves excédentaires plutôt que d’augmenter les prêts. Les agents qui peuvent emprunter ont trop de liquidités et font attention à leurs dépenses, tandis que ceux qui veulent emprunter – les ménages et entreprises fortement endettés (en particulier les petites et moyennes entreprises) – doivent faire face à un rationnement du crédit.

Le canal du taux de change est tout autant problématique. Avec l'affaiblissement de la croissance mondiale, les exportations nettes ont peu de chances de s’améliorer de manière robuste, même avec un dollar plus faible. En outre, de nombreuses grandes banques centrales mettent en œuvre des variantes de QE à côté de la Fed, neutralisant en partie l'effet de ses actions sur la valeur du dollar.

Mais le problème principal est sans doute le fait que l'effet de la dépréciation du dollar sur la balance commerciale, et donc sur la croissance, est limité par deux facteurs importants. Tout d'abord, la faiblesse du dollar va de pair avec une hausse du prix des matières premières en dollars, ce qui implique un frein à la balance commerciale, étant donné que les Etats-Unis sont un pays importateur net de matières premières. Deuxièmement, une amélioration du PIB provenant de la hausse des exportations conduit à une augmentation des importations. Les études empiriques estiment que l'impact global de la faiblesse du dollar américain sur la balance commerciale est proche de zéro.

Le seul autre canal important de transmission des opérations de QE vers l'économie réelle est l'effet de richesse généré par une hausse du marché boursier. Néanmoins, il y a une certaine circularité dans l'argument selon lequel QE3 pourrait conduire à une hausse persistante des cours des actions. Dès lors qu’une relance persistante des actifs nécessite une reprise significative de la croissance du PIB, il est tautologique d’affirmer que, si les prix des actions augmentent suffisamment à la suite de l’assouplissement quantitatif, l'augmentation du PIB qui en résultera grâce à un effet de richesse justifie la hausse des prix des actifs. Si les canaux de transmission de la politique monétaire vers l'économie réelle ne fonctionnent plus, il est impossible de présumer que les mesures d’assouplissement quantitatif auront un effet significatif sur la croissance économique.

Le président de la Fed, Ben Bernanke, a récemment souligné l'importance d'un canal supplémentaire : le canal de la confiance, à travers lequel l'engagement de la Fed à maintenir des conditions monétaires généreuses plus longtemps pourrait améliorer les dépenses privées. La question est de savoir quelles seront l’importance et la durabilité de ces effets. La confiance est fragile dans un environnement caractérisé par un désendettement en cours, des incertitudes macroéconomiques, une faible croissance du marché du travail et un freinage fiscal.

En bref, QE3 réduira certainement le risque extrême d'une contraction économique pure et simple, mais est peu susceptible de conduire à une reprise soutenue dans une économie qui subit encore les effets d'un processus de désendettement douloureux. À court terme, QE3 encouragera les investisseurs à prendre des risques et stimulera une relance modeste des actifs. Mais la hausse des prix des actions s'essoufflera probablement au fil du temps si la croissance économique se révèle décevante, comme ce sera probablement le cas, et tire vers le bas les attentes concernant les revenus et la rentabilité des entreprises.

Traduit de l’anglais par Timothée Demont

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  1. CommentedRobert O'Regan

    We all know that, without a gold standard, you can screw with the rate of interest and monetary policy to benefit specific groups....this is not new stuff; deal with the issue, please.

  2. Portrait of Christopher T. Mahoney

    CommentedChristopher T. Mahoney

    QE1 represented a 125% growth in the monetary base; QE2 represented a 30% growth. QE3, if it continues for six months, will represent 9% growth. Its scale builds with time, at $40B or ~2% per month. Right now it has zero effect, because the monetary base has not yet begun to grow.

  3. CommentedMarten Klein

    Easing is an euphemism for money printing. Aggressive monetary easing the road to hyperinflation. With easing dollars becomes an official banana currency. An issue, Mr. Roubini? Depends, hope the US FED know what they are doing, otherwise the US may quickly detroitify.

  4. Commentedsrinivasan gopalan

    Mr.Roubini has demonstrated the futility of persisting with monetary easing to artificially flood the money market, even when such unorthodox monetary mesures have their own limits. Given the structural rigidities embedded in the US economy it is not the availability of credit at zero rate that would fire up entrepreneurial animal spirit because basically the private sector is finding it difficult to pay back when times are bad like this on loans they had contracted at easier terms. Besides, productivity of labour and efficiency of capital need to be focused if the Federal Reserve seeks to have some result of its quantitative easing. The Federal Government cannot pursue a fiscal splurge policy when borrowings are easier for both State-funded programmes including bailouts of investment banks and to private sector which does not have any appetite to lap up funds for expansion and greenfield projects. The dilemma of fiscal and monetary policy coherence needs to be resolved before any contemplated surge in activity could supervene. This is as good a case for the United States as it is for India where the authorities had to zero in on unrelenting inflation that slaps the cruelest form of taxation on the poorest of the poor. G.Srinivasan, Journalist, New Delhi.

  5. CommentedRoman Bleifer

    QE3, as the previous QE, will only increase the scale of speculative financial transactions, but does not lead to economic growth. From another throw empty money GDP will not increase. And the risk that a financial bubble bursts significantly increased. The real economy does not get as credit and will not receive them. Throw-empty money does not solve the systemic problems, and the global crisis is systemic ( http://crisismir.com/analiticheskie-materialy/ekonomika/13-mirovoj-ekonomicheskij-krizis-prichiny-i-posledstviya-quo-vadis.html ). Need for reform of the stock markets. the current system of stock market investment is not fulfilling its functions and work on herself as a speculative system.

  6. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    As many of the other comments suggest this is simply another cosmetic surgery, like pouring petrol (more precisely virtual petrol) into a car that has no engine.
    Easing or stimulus only makes sense if it could kick-start something that has slowed down, stopped, but structurally still intact and can be restarted.
    But this is not true to the US or to the global economy.
    People are desperately trying to avoid looking at the real root cause of the crisis: the unsustainable and unnatural constant quantitative growth model.
    Besides in a global, interdependent network no individual or country can make unilateral decisions based on self-calculations since it changes, disturbs the mechanics of the whole network.
    Until people, especially today's leader start taking into consideration that we all fully depend on each other as we are interconnected whether we like it or now, and that in a closed and finite natural living system constant quantitative growth is impossible, we are going to slide deeper and deeper into this system failure.
    This is an unprecedented, evolutionary stage humanity has no historical experience for, thus first we need to study and understand where we are and how harmony and balance can be restored.
    We already significantly exhausted both the natural and human resources, thus there is not much time left to start building a new system before we are running out of options.

  7. CommentedDavid Rodrigues

    Same thing occurred during Japanese crisis, well I mean Japanese depression (when it's so long, it's not a crisis anymore :).

    Japan did the same fearing the systemic risk, injecting a so huge amount of liquidity and creating an unsustainable public deficit. All the financial and banking system stood unchanged (no need to change when they give you free money for your failures).

    So my question is : is a system based on growth possible for already grown countries, without huge amount of debt of course ?

  8. CommentedElizabeth Pula

    My following comments are twisting “Hard to be easing”. Really since, we’re in to the third round of QE, OMG! I am looking at the crisis ??? from a down-to-earth street view. Roubini and the other greats that are the lead contributors to this site take the high road. I live on a dirt road. So, I am going to use some statistics and comments starting with the ordinary day-to-day transactions of a dollar and dollars. Hopefully, ALL the PRICES that I have selected are what a dollar at that time could purchase at that time, and then I present some questions about the dollar today. And, yes, I think I am doing a more relevant “OPERATION TWIST”, than Bernanke couldn’t even dream about, if I can stay alive at least a year or so past 2014. But, I don’t want to digress too much so, to get back down to earth…….

    What is the price of gasoline in 2012, in 2012 dollars in the US?
    What was the price of gasoline a few years ago, relatively speaking?

    From http://www.consumerenergyreport.com/2012/03/14/charting-the-dramatic-gas-price-rise-of-the-last-decade/

    Average cost for a gallon of gas in the U.S. between 1998-2011:
    CLINTON YEARS
    1998 — $1.03
 1999 — $1.14 
2000 — $1.49
    BUSH YEARS
    2001 — $1.43
 2002 — $1.34
 2003 — $1.56 
2004 — $1.85
2005 — $2.27
 2006 — $2.58 
2007 — $2.81 
2008 — $3.26
    OBAMA YEARS
    2009 — $2.35
 2010 — $2.78
 2011 — $3.53


    So, now lets look at labor over a longer time period beginning from 1970’s through 2006, just to get an idea about wages and the distribution of earnings in the USA. AND what are you earning today in today’s dollar? AND what is the minimum wage today in today’s dollar? Could you buy gas and make a round-trip home on a minimum hourly wage today? Could you ten years ago? How many people have public transportation to go to work and get back home EASILY? Or would it take 3 hours or more roundtrip??? What’s affordable?


    From WIKIPEDIA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States

    (the whole article has some pretty good information to think about for a while. Even a 10-year-old can read it.)

    In 2006, there were approximately 116,011,000 households in the United States. 1.93% of all households had annual incomes exceeding $250,000.[6] 12.3% fell below the federal poverty threshold[7] and the bottom 20% earned less than $19,178.[8] The aggregate income distribution is highly concentrated towards the top, with the top 6.37% earning roughly one third of all income, and those with upper-middle incomes controlling a large, though declining, share of the total earned income.[3][9]
    Income inequality in the United States, which had decreased slowly after World War II until 1970, began to increase in the 1970s until reaching a peak in 2006. It declined a little in 2007.[10] Households in the top quintile (i.e., top 20%), 77% of which had two or more income earners, had incomes exceeding $91,705. Households in the mid quintile, with a mean of approximately one income earner per household had incomes between $36,000 and $57,657. Households in the lowest quintile had incomes less than $19,178 and the majority had no income earner.[11]

    Are you making more money or less money annually than you were 10 years ago? How many people do you think are making more money annually than they were 10 years ago?

    Now, let’s look at the price of milk. Just a snapshot comparision in 1999 and 2009 dollars:

    Gallon of milk $2.88 $3.05


    There is a great list of other comparisons, from this site:
    http://www.dailyfinance.com/2009/12/29/then-vs-now-how-prices-have-changed-since-1999/

    How much is a gallon of milk at your grocery store in 2012? Are you experiencing inflation or deflation of the US dollar?
    And, now to get a little bit nosy…
    Are you still earning a living where any kind of taxes are reported on your earnings? Do you report and actually pay any kind of taxes based on any kind of annual earnings? How about consumption taxes? Who pays the highest relative percentage of consumption taxes based on income, poor people or rich people? What's poor and what's rich?

    How has quantitative easing helped you financially in any kind of way? How has quantitative easing helped other human beings in your neighborhood, town, county in any way? If you have any, are any of your investments or real assets worth more than 10 years ago? What can you sell? What can you buy? How EASY is it to buy or sell what you need and what you think you may want?

    How many others of approximately 116,011,000 households in the United States can enjoy some fun times together, or are stuck between a rock and a hard place, caught in a real steal? Where are you after working 30 years or so? Where are you just getting out of high school or college?

    How many wage earners are really on easy street or any where near to it? How many can even get close to it, or ever find it in 2012?

    So, depending on actual numbers, estimated numbers, or general statistics, until more folks really have some extra money, rather than incomes allowing spending for only bottom-line essentials on a daily or whatever statistical basis, GDP is only going to change based on annual birth and death statistics, and the effect of those births and deaths on the GDP and basic consumption. What are the projected birth and death statistics for the US? What is the projected effects to annual GDP?

    And to include an effective austerity example to affect any economy:

    Is the activity in Syria the new trending, or the new repeat of a really old model of the most effective significant way to affect economic growth?
    Isn’t Syria using principles of austerity to the max? It’s not pretty. But, it works.

    What’s some practical alternatives at local levels, by local people?

    Any body got any practical ideas? And, of course, how and who pays for what, with what, and when, and where?


      Commentedjames durante

      Yes, this is a more detailed examination of the points i raised (and frank callaghan below). Only Obama's stimulus plan, most of it, went to middle and low income people. But it mostly just kept public employees at work and gave a little tax boost. All the trillions went to banks, gm, aig, qe's and zero interest rates (with historic record spreads between prime rate and the anks rates to customers). The rich win again even when they lose.

      I don't have any solutions at least any that are realistic given the political dynamics in place. Occupy was swept out of the parks by storm troopers, and no one seemed to object. I guess people accept that neo-fascism for dssenters is the flip side of bailing out the rich. Well, you can always join the "tea party." How Orwellian!

      The dam will have to break through sustained political turmoil and ten we hope that the rich will be forced to give way a bit. Otherwise we are ultimately facing a "golden dawn."

  9. Commentedjames durante

    We keep going around in circles. No aggregate demand due to excessive debt and stagnant or falling wages. The top 1% get 25% of the income and have 40% of the wealth. The gini coefficient for the US is on par with Russia, Venezuela, Argentina and a smattering of African countries.

    The wage squeeze has set corporate profits soaring and the cozy relationship between banks and DC means no serious financial reform.

    There is no mechanism for altering inequality, quite the contrary. So, invest in a luxury goods fund. What did Citigroup call it? The "plutonomy?"

      Commenteddalai guevara

      James
      Correct, the increasing spiral of QE as preached predominantely by the UK and the US will further fuel inequality and commodity pricing. We will ultimately come to the point, where ENERGY will become unaffordable for large sections of society. Travel will reduce, heating your home will become unaffordable, up to the point where even renationalisation of the energy market will be on the table.

      Blimey, interesting times lie ahead.

  10. CommentedRay DAMANI

    All QEs are of the banks, for the banks, by the banks! (I exclude the English Queens Elizabeth.)

    Everything else is spin without real transmission fluid money into the pockets of working Americans.

    Free money for Wall Street and TBTF banks to earn risk free returns and artificially support their [formerly toxic] asset prices mean a GULAG ECONOMY for ordinary Americans and savers.

  11. CommentedJohn Wiederspan

    You can lead business to credit, but you can't make them borrow. Two more points: (1) Easy credit/low % rates, in many countries, was the cause of their troubles (2) Using central banks to stimulate an economy is to misuse the bank. As an old school monetarist, I can only sadly shake my head at the idea that a central bank should play any role in stimulating economic growth. Price stability is the alpha and the omega.

  12. Commentedhacim obmed

    The effect of QE3 will be a massive increase in price of stock, especially for companies with inelastic cash flow, regular dividends and a semi-monopolistic position that allows them to stay even with inflation. Examples would be AT&T, Tobacco companies, natural resource companies, railroads, certain REITs, some pharma/healthcare companies, and Master limited partnerships in the midstream energy business. Such companies will sell 20 or 30 year bonds while QE3 keeps rates low and will use the proceeds to buy back their own stock while their stock prices are a bargain. They will take on the maximum leverage possible now now now. Then in a few years inflation will tick up towards 10% and the bond prices will fall. They will retire the bonds with inflated money. The net result will be a huge contraction in the supply of stock and a huge increase in its value and in dividends. It is going to be great for investors who have capital. Sadly it will be a total wipe out for the real economy and for middle class people who work for a salary. As usual they will be screwed.

      CommentedRay DAMANI

      As long as people have money to pay their ever increasing iPhone bills and increasingly taxed Marlboro packs.

  13. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    What has happened to the world economy?
    Over the last half Century it has become more prosperous. That prosperity has been spread widely in a geographical sense. The benefits have accrued more narrowly in recent years in a social sense. Less than one million families have gained the greater part of the wealth of a world of seven thousand million people.

    What is the role of easing? It is currently a tool in the system that has created this unsustainable system. It does not address the core issue of inequality.

  14. Commenteddonna jorgo

    so you mean they needed stimulation ..but not from money becouse is very low valute (bond and gold).
    AND my opinion fiscal cliff can fix with stimulation recapitalize bank ..(this will not be imediatly )because is difficult but will give push for start..
    you know this is global poblem (GLOBAL) YOU KNOW BETTER OF EVERYONE WHY?
    THANK YOU NICE ARTICLE

  15. CommentedIvan Kitov

    There is an internal controversy in your piece. There was some traction between QE and real economy in the beginning and then it disappeared somehow. What has happened to this traction and why it was not used to a greater extent? A simpler hypothesis is that there was no traction before and there is no traction now, with monetary policy just following natural evolution of system. It have saved the financial system, however.

  16. CommentedDoug Levin

    I admit to being confused. I thought that the channel for getting QE into the economy was federal government spending. The means described here all appear to this economy novice to be secondary or indirectly supported. Why isn't federal deficit spending of this QE money considered as a source for economic stimulation? Please Mr. Roubini if you would comment I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

      CommentedPaulo Sérgio

      QE is more of a money printing exercise than deficit/government spending. Very simply, the Fed prints money, the value of the dollar declines.

      It basically represents a wall of cash - liquidity - the Fed is targeting at specific points, mainly financial institutions. It hopes that there will be "enough to go around" to the average consumer who needs the credit to do a, b and c and create employment by doing so -- which lifts labor market sentiment, in turn lifting consumer sentiment. Consumers account for nearly 80% of US GDP.

  17. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    The relative ease with which monetary stimulus can be extended in the downturn (and therefore increase the balance sheet by bond buying), the same ability is halted to unwind the stimulus (and therefore sell the assets) when the upturn starts and this asymmetry in the transmission mechanism translates into shocks that impact the price-wage stickiness.
    The same is true as given in the recent IMF report on page 67, when it comes to fiscal deficits, where it is easier to operate with deficits in the downturn while difficult to reduce the same when the upturn starts.
    These asymmetries do not bode well with the general perception that monetary and fiscal actions can be made effective if the timing is right and is in measured dozes.
    Procyon Mukherjee

  18. CommentedLuke Ho-Hyung Lee

    If monetary policy’s transmission channels to the real economy are broken, what should we do? How can we fix them? That is the real question. Disappointedly, nobody has provided the answer.

    Please also see this article for fixing that broken channels: “A Real Market Revolution as a Solution for the Current Economic Crisis: A Reappraisal of Current Forecasts of Upcoming US Federal Deficit and Employment” http://savingtheworldeconomy.blogspot.com/2010/11/real-market-revolution-as-solution-for.html

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