欧洲通胀问题的真正症结

发自巴黎——“说美国存在通缩是极不可能的,”这是即将卸任的美联储主席本·伯南克(Ben Bernanke)在2002年所说的名言,“但我也不能完全排除这种可能性。”当时美国的年通胀率超过2%,距离通缩的风险的确相当遥远;但伯南克仍然觉得有必要绘制出一个从潜在灾难性场景逃生的路线图。而当年他描述的这一响应机制基本上就是2008年经济危机时美联储实施政策的预览。

而对当今的欧元区来说威胁却在近处。根据最新的通胀数据,年度消费者价格通胀率仅为0.9%(如果排除波动较大的能源和食品价格,将达到1%),这比欧洲央行“低于但接近2%。”的目标低了1个百分点。随着经济明显低速运行以及失业率超过12%,进一步下跌的风险也无法排除,尤其是考虑到汇率逐步上涨,全球范围的负增长突然爆发和受压制的大宗商品价格所导致的经济下行压力。所以是时候去认识欧洲所面临的通缩危险并考虑如何应对以防发生通缩了。

通货紧缩的第一个问题是,它倾向于将实际(计入通胀后)利率推到高于其均衡值的水平。由于名义利率以零为下限,中央银行很可能会发现自己无法推动利率和通胀下降到足够低的水平,并因此导致衰退甚至螺旋向下的趋势。事实上,一些中央银行(2009年的瑞典,2012年的丹麦)曾向各银行收取存款费用从而出现负利率。但这些策略也是有局限性的,因为如果储户被收费到了某种程度,他们就会跑去买个保险柜来把钱放起来。

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