El agujero negro del PBI de Estados Unidos

CAMBRIDGE – La depresión masiva de la economía de Estados Unidos durará más y causará más estragos que las recesiones anteriores, porque es generada por una pérdida sin precedentes de la riqueza de los hogares. Si bien el paquete de estímulo fiscal que el presidente Obama acaba de firmar impulsará temporalmente la actividad en algún momento de este verano (boreal), es casi una certeza que el pronóstico generalizado de que una recuperación sostenida empezará en el segundo semestre de 2009 resulte excesivamente optimista.

Las recesiones anteriores por lo general se caracterizaban por una acumulación excesiva de inventarios y una inversión sobredimensionada en equipos comerciales. La economía se pudo recuperar a medida que esos excesos eran absorbidos con el tiempo, dando lugar a nuevas inversiones. Esas recuperaciones también se vieron favorecidas por reducciones en las tasas de interés por parte del banco central.

Esta vez, en cambio, la caída en el precio de las acciones y en el valor de los hogares destruyó más de 12 billones de dólares de riqueza de los hogares en Estados Unidos, una cantidad equivalente a más del 75% del PBI. Las reacciones previas ante mermas en la riqueza de los hogares indican que una caída de este tipo recortará el gasto de los consumidores en aproximadamente 500.000 millones de dólares por año hasta que se restablezca la riqueza. Si bien una tasa de ahorro más alta de los hogares ayudará a reconstruir la riqueza, haría falta más de una década de tasas de ahorro relativamente altas para restablecer lo que se perdió.

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