這期Time mag.的這篇有關總體經濟的論述,寫得還算不錯。

其內容談到溫和的聯準會主席Greenspan被日本與中國大買美國債券的金額所嚇到(He says "awesome"),在今年的前三月,中國買了1670億美金,日本則買了3360億美金,也因為這樣巨額的買法以致於美金到現在仍未眨值,


峰曰:其實貨幣的升貶主要也是取決於「供需」這樣的簡單觀念;一般而言,有四種力量會使貨幣升值:貿易、實質投資(如廠房)、金融投資(如股票債券)、金融投機。在這裏應是中國與日本的「金融投資」讓美元得以維持不墜。


但中國與日本這樣做的目的是為了避免本身貨幣升值,以免影響本身的外銷。所以最後變成了美國人用借來的錢(債券)來買亞洲的貨品,然後亞洲再用這些貨品所賺的錢來借給美國人(買債券意同借錢給美國),不過這是互利的。

而也因為亞洲這種大買債券的方式,使得美國的利率得以維持低檔(因為錢的供給變多,利率就不容易高),如此一來的話,則使得數以百萬的美國人在生活上比較愉快(想想你的房貸與卡債的利率,要高要低?)

我很喜歡這篇文章的原因,是這總有雞生蛋,蛋生雞的感覺,1.中日為了避免升值→2.大買美國債券(等於美國人借錢購物)→3.錢多利率低,美國人因此生活成本較低……



Asia's Burden
China and Japan are propping up the U.S. dollar. What happens if they stop?
BY ARAVIND ADIGA
Monday, Jun. 21, 2004


Even by the buttoned-up standards of central bankers, Alan Greenspan is not an effusive man. But one economic phenomenon has driven the U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman to reach for the superlatives: in March, he marveled at the "extraordinary" efforts of China and Japan to prop up the dollar by pumping money into U.S. bonds. Japan's accumulation of U.S. securities, he declared, was "awesome." Indeed, in the first three months of this year, China and Hong Kong bought $167 billion of American securities (primarily U.S. treasuries and corporate bonds), while Japan bought $336 billion worth, according to the Asian Development Bank. Greenspan isn't the only one doing a double take. Last week Bill Gross, America's most influential bond investor, warned that the dollar could plunge by 20% if China and Japan stop supporting it by buying U.S. bonds. "Japan and China will change their stance," Gross told the Financial Times. "We don't know when, but we know they will." By investing in American assets on such a massive scale, Japan and China have undertaken one of the biggest financial experiments in history. Why on earth are they doing it, and how worried should we be?

The central banks of Japan and China aren't buying American bonds out of charity. They're doing it to shore up the dollar and prevent their own currencies from appreciating; this is making their exports cheaper and more appealing to American consumers. One result is that Japan and China have been running enormous trade surpluses with America. They have then reinvested a chunk of that surplus in U.S. bonds. Trans-Pacific trade is thus starting to look like that theoretical impossibility, a perpetual-motion machine: America pays for Asian goods with borrowed money, then Asia uses the profits from these sales to lend more money to its favorite customer. It's a deal that has been beneficial for both sides. A boom in exports to America has fueled economic growth in Japan and China. Asia's eagerness to buy bonds, in turn, has helped America avoid the full consequences of its reckless spending. The U.S. current account deficit touched $542 billion last year and the fiscal deficit, which has burgeoned because of tax cuts and the war in Iraq, is projected to hit $521 billion this year. Huge deficits usually make investors nervous and drive up interest rates, but Asia's bond purchases have allowed Greenspan to keep interest rates low, making life easier for millions of U.S. home buyers and credit-card owners?not to mention President Bush, as he scrambles for money to rebuild Iraq.

But for Asia, this goods-for-bonds system is beginning to outlive its usefulness. For a start, if U.S. interest rates rise, as Greenspan has hinted they soon will, bond prices will fall?and the value of the assets held by Japan and China will be slashed. Another concern is that buying dollar assets to keep its exports cheap might have worked a bit too well for China, with strong exports contributing to the over-heating of the mainland economy. The biggest failing of the goods-for-bonds deal, however, is that it has hooked American consumers onto cheap imports and caused a huge deterioration in the U.S. current-account deficit. If U.S. interest rates surge, the ripple effect will be felt throughout the world in the form of higher mortgage payments, credit-card repayments, and lower corporate investment.

Already, Asia's willingness to bankroll America's debts may be starting to wane. David Wyss, chief economist at ratings agency Standard & Poor's, says anecdotal evidence from bond traders suggests that China's purchases of American securities are slowing. Japan's appetite for U.S. bonds might also begin to ease, if its own economy continues to recover, making domestic investments more attractive than buying American debt. If China and Japan lose their hunger for American assets, the dollar will slide. The question is: how far and how fast? A gradual drop would boost U.S. exports, cut its trade deficit, and help silence protectionist American politicians who demand that trade barriers be raised against Asian countries. But a free fall in the dollar would trigger panic throughout the world's financial system?and remind America's protectionists of the startling new truth of international economics: that the billions of dollars that Asian bankers have parked on Wall Street are now as crucial to America's financial security as America's military power may be to Asia's political security.


From the Jun. 28, 2004 issue of TIME Asia Magazine

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