Los límites de la expansión cuantitativa europea

CAMBRIDGE – ¿Por qué la política de expansión cuantitativa de la Reserva Federal de EE. UU. ha sido mucho más exitosa que la versión implementada por el Banco Central Europeo? Esa pregunta intelectual nos lleva directamente a una pregunta práctica: ¿podrá el BCE convertir la expansión cuantitativa en un mayor crecimiento económico y una inflación más elevada?

La Fed introdujo la expansión cuantitativa —la compra de grandes cantidades de bonos a largo plazo y la promesa de mantener bajas las tasas de interés durante un periodo prolongado— después de llegar a la conclusión de que la economía estadounidense no estaba respondiendo adecuadamente a la política monetaria tradicional y al paquete de estímulo fiscal aprobado en 2009. El presidente de la Fed en ese momento, Ben Bernanke, razonó que la política monetaria no convencional reduciría las tasas de largo plazo, induciendo a los inversores a pasar de bonos de alta calidad a acciones y otros valores riesgosos. Así aumentaría el valor de esos activos, incrementando la riqueza de los hogares y, con ella, el gasto de consumo.

La estrategia funcionó bien. El precio de las acciones subió el 30 % tan solo en 2013 y los precios de las viviendas aumentaron el 13 % en esos mismos 12 meses. Como resultado, el patrimonio de los hogares aumentó en 10 billones de USD ese año. El aumento de la riqueza indujo a los consumidores a incrementar el gasto, que puso nuevamente en marcha al habitual proceso multiplicador, con una suba del PIB del 2,5 % en 2013 y una baja de la tasa de desempleo del 8 % al 6,7 %. La expansión continuó en los años subsiguientes y redujo el desempleo al 5 %, y la tasa de desempleo para los graduados universitarios a tan solo el 2,5 %.

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