¿Vuelve la inflación?

CAMBRIDGE.– Actualmente la inflación es baja en todos los países industriales, y la combinación de elevado desempleo y lento crecimiento del PBI elimina las fuentes usuales de presión ascendente sobre los precios. De todas formas, a los inversores financieros les preocupa cada vez más que la inflación eventualmente comience a aumentar, debido a la gran expansión de las reservas de los bancos comerciales inducida por la Reserva Federal de Estados Unidos y el Banco Central Europeo (BCE). Algunos inversores, al menos, recuerdan que el aumento de la inflación suele seguir a la expansión monetaria, y temen que esta no sea una excepción.

Los inversores han respondido a esos temores comprando oro, tierras agrícolas y otras coberturas tradicionales contra la inflación. El precio del oro tocó recientemente su máximo en los últimos cuatro meses y se acerca a los $1700 por onza. Los precios por hectárea de las tierras cultivables en Iowa e Illinois subieron más del 10% durante el año pasado. Y la reciente publicación de las actas de la Junta de la Reserva Federal de EE. UU., que indican apoyo a otra ronda de flexibilización cuantitativa, causaron bruscos saltos en los precios del oro, la plata, el platino y otros metales.

Pero, a diferencia de los inversores privados, los funcionarios de la Fed insisten en que esta vez realmente será diferente. Notan que la enorme expansión de las reservas de los bancos comerciales no ha conducido a un aumento comparable en la oferta de dinero y crédito. Mientras que las reservas aumentaron a una tasa anual del 22% durante los últimos tres años, el agregado monetario amplio (M2) –que refleja mejor al PBI nominal y la inflación durante períodos largos– aumentó menos del 6% durante ese tiempo.

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