¿Garantizan unos tipos de interés bajos precios altos de los activos?

Los precios de los activos –de los valores bursátiles, bienes inmuebles e incluso petróleo– han alcanzado niveles históricamente altos en todo el mundo. Aunque la Historia resulta con frecuencia útil para predecir las tendencias futuras, de vez en cuando algo fundamental cambia y contribuye a la aparición de una nueva situación. Ahora la cuestión importante es la de si los altos precios actuales de los activos son consecuencia de alguna evolución fundamental de ese tipo o se han formado burbujas.

Una justificación de los altos precios de los activos que se oye con frecuencia es la de que los tipos de interés reales a largo plazo (con los ajustes correspondientes a la inflación) son muy bajos, pero los inversores deben desconfiar de ese argumento. Puede parecer verosímil, pero en modo alguno resulta convincente y –lo que es más importante– no nos dice, desde luego, que los altos precios sean sostenibles.

Desde luego, es cierto que los tipos de interés reales a largo plazo han descendido de forma muy marcada... no de repente ni sólo recientemente, sino a un ritmo bastante constante durante más de veinte años. Según el FMI, los tipos de interés reales a largo plazo y a escala mundial alcanzaron su nivel más alto de casi el 7 por ciento, por término medio, en 1984 y bajaron hasta el de un poco menos del 2 por ciento en 2004. A lo largo del recorrido hubo algunos altibajos, pero la tendencia general ha sido a su reducción y la magnitud del descenso –casi cinco puntos porcentuales– resulta llamativa.

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