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他山之石|《经济学人》:美国住房市场隐忧阴魂仍未散

2016-08-24 徐启 我与我们的世界 我与我们的世界

本期导读:想看清中国的房地产市场,就要先看透美国的房地产市场。本期文章对美国住房市场的剖析一针见血,同时,也对美国住房市场问题的根源,即美国的精英主义政治给予了旁敲侧击式的评论。精英极少数的社会,形成独裁政权;精英一小撮的社会,形成寡头政权;精英占一大部分的社会,形成所谓的民主政权。不过,不管哪种类型的政权社会,纳税人始终是最终的埋单者。羊群看到牧羊人给牧草施肥浇水,就认为牧羊人是真心对自己好,那就大错特错了,牧羊人为牧草施肥浇水的真心在于:剪更多的羊毛、挤更多的羊奶、吃更多的羊肉。

 

Housing in America

美国的住房市场

Nightmare on Main Street

美国住房市场隐忧阴魂仍未散

America’s housing system was at the centre of the last crisis. It hasstill not been properly reformed

美国的住房市场体系是2008年全球金融危机发生的根源所在,不过,到目前为止,所应进行的改革都仍还未得到落实。

Aug 20th 2016 

20160820

 

WHATare the most dysfunctional parts of the global financial system? China’sbanking industry, you might say, with its greatwall of bad debts and state-sponsoredcronyism. Or the euro zone’staped-together single currency, which stretches across 19 differentcountries, each with its own debts and frail financial firms. Both areworrying. But if sheer size is your yardstick, nothing beats America’shousing market.

当前全球金融体系中功能最失调的部分有哪些?你可能会说,中国的银行系统,因为,它的坏账规模如长城般雄伟,且与政府有着扯不清的关系。抑或是,把参差不齐的成员国绑在一起的单一货币欧元,因为,它牵涉多达19个成员国,而且这些成员内部也都债务累累、金融系统脆弱。不错,这两者都足以令人堪忧。但是,若单纯以规模大小论,没有什么能比得过美国的住房市场。


It isthe world’s largest asset class, worth $26 trillion, more than America’sstockmarket. The slab of mortgagedebt lurking beneath it is theplanet’s biggest concentration of financial risk. When house prices startedtumbling in the summer of 2006, a chain reaction led to a global crisis in2008-09. A decade on, the presumption is that the mortgage-debt monster hasbeen tamed. In fact, vast, nationalised, unprofitable and undercapitalised, it remains a menace to the world’s biggesteconomy.

美国住房市场的资产规模是世界上最大的,总值高达26万亿美元,比美国股市规模还要大。因而,隐藏于美国住房市场中的抵押贷款债务也就成为全球金融体系的最大隐患。2006年夏,美国房价开始下跌,随之产生系列连锁反应,并最终导致2008-2009年的全球金融危机。近十年过去了,大家可能都觉得,美国的抵押贷款债务已不再有问题。而实际上,那些债务规模庞大、盈利能力不佳、资本化水平低,只是由政府买走罢了,但对世界经济领头羊的美国来说,仍构成巨大威胁。


Unreal estate

泡沫资产


Thereason the danger passes almost unnoticed is that, at first sight, the housingmarket has been improving. Prices in America have crept back up towards theirall-time high. As a result, the proportion of households with mortgage debtsgreater than the value of their property has dropped from a quarter to under atenth. In addition, while Europe has dithered,America has cleaned up its banks. They have $1.2 trillion of core capital, morethan double the amount in 2007, which acts as a buffer against losses. Thebanks have cut risk and costs and raised fees in order to grind out decent profits. Bosses and regulatorspoint to chastened lenders and boastthat the problem of banks “too big tofail” has been solved. Taxpayers, they say, are safe. 

美国的抵押贷款债务问题之所以没受到关注,原因可能首先在于,美国的住房市场一直在好转。目前,美国的房价已攀升至历史高位,这样也就使得,房贷负债高于房产价值的家庭的比例从四分之一降至不到十分之一。此外,欧洲那边状况仍还颤颤巍巍,美国却已把银行坏账清理得差不多了。美国银行系统的核心资本,作为应对风险损失的缓冲资金,当前规模已高达1.2万亿美元,超过2007年时的两倍有余。为了让盈利状况变得好看些,各银行降低了操作风险、缩减了运营成本、提升了收费标准。银行与监管当局都表示,不良贷款者都已有所改进,银行“大到不能倒”的问题也解决了,还有,纳税人现在都已安全了。


Onlyin their dreams. That trillion-dollar capital buffer exists to protect banks,but much risk lies elsewhere. That is because, since the 1980s, mortgagelending in America has been mainly the job of the bond market, not the banks asin many other countries. Loans arebundled into bonds, guaranteed and sold around the world. Investors on WallStreet, in Beijing and elsewhere own $7 trillion-worth.

所有这些,净是痴人说梦。那些万亿美元规模的缓冲资本,仅仅是为了保护银行,很多风险并没有消失,而是转移到了别处。这是因为,自上世纪80年代以来,美国的住房抵押贷款主要是在债券市场进行,而不像其他很多国家是通过银行。美国的抵押贷款都被打包成了债券,并在全球范围内进行担保、买卖。华尔街的投资者、北京的投资者以及世界其他地方的投资者手里都有,总规模高达7万亿美元。


Whenthose investors panicked in 2008, the government stepped in and took over thebits of the mortgage-guarantee apparatus it did not already control. It was atemporary solution, but political gridlock has made it permanent. Now 65-80% of new mortgages are stampedwith a guarantee from Uncle Sam that protects investors from the risk thathomeowners default. In the heartland of free enterprise the mortgage system is worthy of Gosplan.

2008年这些投资者们喊疼的时候,美国政府开始介入,并购买了抵押贷款担保系统无法承受的那部分中的一小部分。这在当时只是个权宜之计,不过,美国的政治体制已赋予了它一种长期性。目前,为了保护投资者免于受房贷违约风险的影响,美国政府对新增抵押贷款担保的比例高达65-80%在市场自由主义者们看来,美国的抵押贷款体制已与前苏联的“全能型”国家计划委员会没有什么区别。


Theguarantees mean there is unlikely to be a repeat of the global panic that tookplace in 2008-09, when investors feared that housing bonds were about todefault. Only a madman in the WhiteHouse would think that America gained from reneging on its promises. Andparts of the system are indeed safer. The baroquederivatives that caused huge damage, such as mortgage-based CDOs, haveshrivelled away. At least 10,000 pages of new rules exist to police recklessconduct.

有了美国政府的担保,就意味着,投资者因担心美国房债违约导致2008-2009年发生的全球经济阵痛就不太可能重演。但是,白宫里没有一个人会认为,美国将会因不履行其承诺而遭受什么损失。不过,美国抵押贷款体系的某些部分的安全性确实有所提高。花里胡哨的房贷债权抵押衍生品是带来破坏的主要因素,现在已有所减少,而且,当局还制定了10000多页的新规章来对高风险行为进行管控。


Thedangers of a nationalised system are more insidious.The size, design and availability of mortgages is now decided by official fiat.Partly because the state charges too little for the guarantees it offers,taxpayers are subsidising housing borrowers to the tune of up to $150 billion a year, or 1% of GDP. Since thegovernment mortgage machine need not make a profit or have safety buffers,well-run private firms cannot compete, so many banks have withdrawn from makingmortgages. If there is another crisis the taxpayerwill still have to foot the bill, which could be 2-4% of GDP, not far offthe cost of the 2008-09 bank bail-out.

而现实是,美国政府对住房抵押贷款体系的不断干预所带来的影响更具危险性。现在,抵押贷款的规模、结构以及限额都由政府决定。政府对其自己所进行的贷款担保收费极低,这也构成纳税人每年对房贷者进行的变相补贴高达1500亿美元(约合GDP1%)的部分原因。政府进行贷款不用考虑盈利问题,也不用考虑安全缓冲问题,因此,私营公司没有能力与之进行竞争,这也导致很多银行不再开展住房抵押贷款业务。若危机再现的话,到时埋单的依然是纳税人,埋单规模会有美国GDP2-4%,这与2008-2009年拯救银行的成本没差多少。


Facedwith this gigantic muddle, manypoliticians and regulators just shrug. The system is mad, but the thicket of rules and vigilantregulators will prevent crazy lending from taking place, they argue. Householdshave deleveraged, leaving them able to service their debts more efficiently.

面对如此之巨的一团糟,很多政客与监管者都只会一耸肩完事儿,有时也会辩称,这个体系确实有点儿问题,不过,我们有系列监管法规,也有很多监管者一直努力在监管一线,预防高风险贷款行为的发生,房贷市场已经去杠杆化,贷款者也能更顺利地偿付借债啦。


That seems wildly optimistic. Because housing is seen as one of the few ways in which less-well-off Americans can accumulatewealth, there is an inbuilt political pressure to loosen lending standards.As a result, housing crises are arecurring feature of American life. Before the subprime debacle in 2008-10, there was thesavings-and-loans fiasco in the1980s. Since the crisis the share of households that own their property hasfallen from 69% to 63%. Rather than welcoming this as a sensible shift towardsrenting, Donald Trump and others have portrayed it as a disgrace. Because global investors are hungry for safeassets, any bonds with an American guarantee are snapped up, adding to theincentive to borrow.

这种乐观劲儿显得有点超乎想象,因为,住房是不太富裕的美国人能够进行财富积累的不多的几个渠道之一,政治体系里有一种内在的、无形的压力促使贷款标准的放松。结果就是,住房市场危机就成为美国人生活中会反复发生的一个现象2008-2010年次级贷款市场崩盘之前,早在上世纪80年代就发生过储蓄贷款失衡危机。自那次危机以来,美国拥有自有房产的家庭的比例已从69%降至63%。特朗普及其他很多人认为这一现象很“丢脸”,而没把它看作是转向住房租赁的一个良好契机。不过,全球的投资者对安全资产都如饥似渴,由美国担保的任何债券都会一抢而空,这自然会进一步刺激美国人的借贷欲望。


Ratherthan allow the cycle of remorse andrepetition to repeat, better to complete the job of reform and make sure that the mortgage system cannotbe used as a political tool to stimulate the economy. The simplest approachwould be to give it the same medicine as the regulators administered to thebanks. The nationalised mortgage firms that guarantee the bonds—and are thus in hock if the market collapses—shouldbe forced to raise their capital buffers and increase their fees until theymake an adequate profit.

不能再让这样的危机怪圈一直循环下去,而应对美国房贷体系进行改革,并确保房贷体系不被用作刺激经济的政治工具。最简单的办法就是参考监管当局为银行体系开具的药方。房贷公司会因市场崩盘而破产倒闭,美国政府因此对其进行了收购,不过,应强制房贷公司提升其核心资本规模以作为缓冲资金,并让其提高收费标准,直到他们拥有充分的盈利能力。


The publicwould have to foot the bill, of around $400 billion, making explicit thecontingent liability for future losses that it already bears. The cost ofmortgages, at a record low today, would also rise. But that would eliminate theongoing hidden subsidy and create a level playing field so that private firmswere able to do more mortgage lending. Ifthat bill was too big to swallow, a second-best would be to impose the newrules on new mortgages, leaving the stock of subsidised existing loans to rundown over the coming decades.

但是,纳税人依然得埋单,规模约有4000亿美元。不过,这样会使得最终由纳税人承担的未来或有债务变得更为明晰明确。目前处于历史低位的住房贷款成本将来也会上升,但那样做能使得各种隐性变相补贴不再存在,并能创造一个公平的市场竞争环境,这样,私营公司也就愿意参与市场,并向市场注入更多的住房贷款资金。若埋单规模太大难以一次消化完,一个次好的办法就是,对新增住房贷款实施新的政策,这样就能使现有房贷存量在未来的几十年里逐渐降低。


This House is for doing nothing

众议院的不作为


It isa massive job, made harder by the fact that so many groups have a stake in a rotten mortgage machine.Homeowners like cheap debt. Litigioushedge funds have their own agenda. Thegovernment uses an accounting quirk to book profits from the mortgage system,but does not recognise the potential cost to taxpayers. It is no surprisethat Congress has shirked its duty.But until America’s mortgage monster is brought to heel, the task of makingfinance safer will remain only half-done.

不过,那将是一项艰巨的任务,同时,因住房市场牵涉的利益团体太多,会使得这个问题更难以解决。贷款者想要还贷成本降低,对冲基金也都有自己的算盘。美国政府已巧用帐目让房贷账面显得有所盈利,但它却不承认潜在的成本将是由纳税人承担,因而,美国国会停摆,也就不足为奇了。不管怎样,直到美国房贷问题这个阴魂得到彻底驱散的那一天,实现金融安全的任务才算是真正完成。


 

文章原文转自《经济学人》,非商业用途,仅限于个人学习交流之目的。

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