De bancos y rescates financieros

PALO ALTO – Las señales tempranas de un repunte de la actividad de la industria manufacturera, ya fuerte en Asia, permiten esperar una modesta recuperación de la profunda recesión global que se vive hoy en día. Sin embargo, es improbable que haya una expansión sólida y duradera sino hasta ver avances en la forma de abordar los activos tóxicos que envenenan las hojas de balance de las instituciones financieras y aquejan a las autoridades de casi todos los puntos del planeta.

El sistema financiero es una compleja interacción de acreedores y prestatarios, compradores y vendedores, y ahorristas e inversionistas. Cuando funciona bien, equilibra riesgo y recompensa, e innovación y seguridad.

Los bancos y otras firmas financieras toman préstamos a corto plazo –en los años recientes, cada vez más a partir del mercado de valores comerciales, no de depósitos- y prestan a largo plazo a altos tipos de interés, asumiendo tanto el riesgo del crédito (de que se produzca un impago) como el riesgo del tipo de interés. El creciente apalancamiento potencia las ganancias en épocas de alza, pero es muy riesgoso en las de baja. No es de sorprender entonces que las grandes firmas financieras que han quebrado –Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae y Freddie Mac, AIG y Lehman Brothers- fueran las más apalancadas, por 30 o 40 veces su capital.

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