Mercados financieros intrépidos

Varios observadores serios -como Robert Rubin de Citigroup, Larry Summers de Harvard y Martin Wolf de The Financial Times - expresaron consternación en los últimos meses frente a las percepciones de riesgo de los mercados financieros. Mientras que los mercados juzgaron que el mundo de hoy -especialmente el dólar y los títulos asociados a esta moneda- tiene un nivel de riesgo bajo si se lo analiza desde una perspectiva histórica, los riesgos geopolíticos, en realidad, parecen ser grandes. Wolf, por ejemplo, sostiene que la actitud de los mercados financieros fue la de no querer confrontar el problema del "período extenso de ganancias reducidas", ignorando la "calamidad ocasional" con antelación, mientras que, después del hecho, se atribuirán las pérdidas a una "mala suerte imprevisible".

Pero si un inversor hoy sí quisiera asegurarse contra una catástrofe geopolítica, ¿cómo lo haría? En la generación anterior a la Primera Guerra Mundial, se creía que los activos seguros eran la deuda de gobiernos asociada con el patrón oro, lo cual supuestamente ofrecía protección contra los virus populistas inflacionarios que afligían a países como México, Francia o Estados Unidos. Pero los inversores en deuda pública británica enfrentaron grandes pérdidas cuando el compromiso de Gran Bretaña con la Primera Guerra Mundial produjo inflación, y los inversores en bonos zaristas los utilizaron para empapelar sus baños después de la Revolución de Octubre.

Después de las inflaciones de la Primera Guerra Mundial, un inversor prudente podría haber pensado que el oro -fácilmente gravable, portátil y real- era un activo atractivo. Pero el oro es estático, mientras que el capital es productivo. En cualquier caso, los tenedores de oro norteamericanos descubrieron, contra su voluntad, que la administración Roosevelt transformó su riqueza en dólares billete en el momento más crítico de la Gran Depresión. Después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, las inversiones en Estados Unidos parecían más seguras que cualquier otra alternativa. Pero, en los 70, los inversores en acciones y bonos a largo plazo norteamericanos perdieron la mitad de su capital, y hasta los inversores en deuda norteamericana a corto plazo perdieron el 20% en términos reales al final de la década.

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