Tem pra todo gosto!

A pergunta colocada para debate pela The International Economy é meio capciosa:

Certainly Chinese authorities might succeed in their effort to safely slow the pace of rapidly rising asset prices. Yet assume this scenario:

The authorities fail and sometime over the next several years the asset bubble suddenly bursts. What happens then for the Chinese economy?

30 experts deram sua opinião. Escolha seu cenário preferido (aqui).

Seu time não vai bem? “Vira-casaca” torce pro meu!

Ensaio do Erwin Rosen (aqui), do Ludwig Von Mises Institute, pergunta:

What is the current state of economic science? In two words, “not good.”

No início

This is evident in the poor performance of the economics profession during the current financial crisis. Few economists saw it coming; once it started, its severity caught them by surprise; and now it is apparent that there is no agreement among them on how to end it.

No meio

For mainstream economists, the certain outcome of the current crisis will be the realization that macroeconomics needs a face-lift. As shown in this paper, the monetarist and Keynesian policies so influential in the United States are already being severely challenged.

A conclusão

I conclude my comments by hoping that this crisis forces the economics profession to take a fresh look at what Austrian economics can offer.

Porque a China resiste às pressões para a apreciação do yuan?

Esse artigo na Slate (aqui) é interessante na medida em que chama a atenção para a situação da economia japonesa, que anda meio “esquecida” dados os eventos nos EUA e Europa:

When the financial world tries to anticipate the next meltdown, all eyes turn to Europe. Greece needed a bailout, then Ireland did. Talk is that Spain will follow, though the country denies that it has a problem.

But a few contrarians think everyone is looking in the wrong direction. Forget Europe, they say. Check out Japan instead. “A global fiasco is brewing in Japan,” predicted Societé Genérale analyst Dylan Grice in a recent report. “It’s like the Titanic has already hit the iceberg and you know it’s going to sink, you just don’t know how long it will take to go down,” said Vitaliy Katsenelson, a Denver-based money manager, in a recent interview that was printed in well-known analyst John Mauldin’s newsletter. One hedge fund analyst I spoke to recently noted that Japan has had no fewer than nine finance ministers in the last 4½ years—one of whom apparently committed suicide after resigning.

Quase tudo coberto no artigo poderia ser dito, de forma quase idêntica, 8 ou mesmo 13 anos atrás… O que mudou? Não muito mais do que, de um lado, o passar do tempo – que registra o inexorável envelhecimento da população (que declina) – que leva a uma situação de poupança também declinante, o que torna menos garantida a continuidade do financiamento público, e de outro lado, o fato de que o Japão agora tem outros “concorrentes” de peso em situação que guarda alguma semelhança com a sua.

Vale a pena ler o artigo para se atualizar, mas eu gostaria de aproveitar a oportunidade para fazer um paralelo entre o Japão dos anos 1980 e a China na atualidade, especialmente no que toca o “conflito” cambial dessas moedas com o dólar.

A figura abaixo mostra uma das situações mais interessantes na história das relações cambiais entre as moedas das três maiores economias do mundo à época. Sem entrar nos detalhes, o fato é que entre o início de 1980 e início de 1985 o marco alemão (e as outras moedas conversíveis) se depreciou 90% em relação ao dólar enquanto que o iene permaneceu estável. Entre fevereiro de 1985 e dezembro de 1987, o marco voltou à paridade inicial enquanto o iene se apreciou mais do que 40%!

Para entender esse movimento “peculiar”, é preciso lembrar que os EUA “forçavam” o Japão a apreciar a moeda. Nos anos 1970 e primeira metade dos anos 1980, toda a conversa era em torno de “sanções” às exportações japonesas – tarifas, quotas e mesmo a adoção, por parte do Japão, de restrições “voluntárias” às exportações!

O iene se depreciar? Impensável, apesar de que todas as moedas conversíveis se depreciaram nesse período. Quando a partir do início de 1985 as moedas começaram a se apreciar, tudo bem, o iene estava “liberado” para seguir o mesmo caminho.

Sem, de novo, entrar nos detalhes, a apreciação do iene a partir de meados dos anos 1980 foi responsável pelo Endaya Fukyo (recessão decorrente da apreciação da moeda) que levou à adoção de uma política monetária fortemente expansionista que por sua vez deu “gás” no mercado de ações e imóveis. Os efeitos dos “estouros” das “bolhas” cinco anos depois são bem conhecidos.

Assim não é difícil entender a postura muito mais “desafiadora” da China com relação às “imposições” das autoridades americanas!

Má escolha de modelo

Em “Falsas Esperanças” (aqui), mostrei as diferenças no comportamento econômico entre países que mativeram o câmbio fixo (atrelado ao euro) daqueles que possuem câmbio flutuante. Há pouco, Krugman reprisou o tema (aqui):

The Baltics have done much worse than Iceland. And the employment numbers are just part of it. Iceland, as even the IMF says, has been able to “preserve the Nordic social model”; there has been a lot of distress, but not much extreme hardship. Meanwhile, the impact on Baltic society has been devastating.

Now it’s true that the Baltic countries have been able to maintain their fixed exchange rates. And this is crucial because ….?

Anyway, the idea that a country suffering a 25 percent fall in GDP, a 20 percent fall in employment, and mass emigration can be hailed as a policy triumph boggles the mind.

Bela Propaganda…

Do blog da Casa Branca, preparado pelo vice diretor do Conselho Econômico Nacional (aqui):

The President is committed to promoting a strong, growing economy – one that’s creating jobs, fostering a thriving middle class, and extending opportunity to all American workers. That’s why he fought so hard to ensure that the priorities of working families were advanced in the agreement introduced today in the Senate.

Se dependesse dos Republicanos…

Insistindo na rota da desgraça

Segundo os argumentos de Daniel Gros (aqui):

When the European Council met on 16 and 17 December 2010, they faced a menu of new ideas on how to better manage the Eurozone crisis. The ideas were suggested by economists and political leaders alike: Eurobonds, allowing the European Financial Stability Facility/Fund to buy debt on the secondary market, increasing the role of the ECB, to name just a few examples.

The EU heads of state chose to ignore all of them. Here is the sum total of what they contributed to the resolution of the Eurozone crisis – a 46-word amendment to EU Treaty Article 136:

“The Member States whose currency is the euro may establish a stability mechanism to be activated if indispensable to safeguard the stability of the euro area as a whole. The granting of any required financial assistance under the mechanism will be made subject to strict conditionality.”

Nothing new was said on how this mechanism will look.

In other words, the main outcome of the meeting was that EU Treaty will be changed to allow for the establishment of a stability mechanism – however this was never prohibited, so there is really no change to status quo. Leaders remain hopeful that Europe can somehow muddle through.

“O homem que sabia demais”…

Mas que não soube aproveitar do seu conhecimento! Assim, não resisti à ironia dessa passagem no ensaio do Zingales lincado no post anterior:

In a 1999 article with fellow economist Mark Gertler, Bernanke analyzed the impact of monetary policy when prices move away from fundamentals. That this contingency was the object of their analysis illustrates how the EMH was losing ground. Their conclusion, however, was that the Fed should not intervene, not only because it is difficult to identify the bubbles but also because “our reading of history is that asset price crashes have done sustained damage to the economy only in cases when monetary policy remained unresponsive or actively reinforced deflationary pressures.”

Veja na figura que o crash da bolsa (-22% em um único dia) em outubro de 1987, os problemas no setor financeiro (S&Ls e bancos) no final dos anos 1980 e início dos anos 1990 ou o estouro da bolha da Nasdaq em 2000, nada disso “detonou” a economia. Desse modo, de acordo com o próprio Bernanke, em 2008 a política monetária ativamente reforçou as pressões deflacionárias, a melhor  explicação para a derrocada da demanda agregada!

Em economia a verdade absoluta não existe…

 Mas também não é o caso de que conceitos sejam absolutamente falsos. O conceito encapsulado na Hipótese de Mercados Eficientes (EMH) é um exemplo importante em questão. Em seu blog, Scott Sumner tem uma discussão (aqui):

I need to constantly repeat a very important point; I’m not arguing the EMH is true.  I’m arguing the EMH is useful and that anti-EMH models are not useful.  The reason I don’t think the EMH is true is because I believe market participants do have cognitive illusions.  And the reason I don’t think the anti-EMH theory is useful is because I think academics and policymakers are equally susceptible to cognitive illusions.

Paul Einzig made the same basic argument back in 1937:

“On June 9, 1937, this veteran monetary expert [Cassel] published a blood-curdling article in the Daily Mail painting in the darkest colours the situation caused by the superabundance of gold and suggesting a cut in the price of gold to half-way between its present price and its old price as the only possible remedy.  He took President Roosevelt sharply to task for having failed to foresee in January 1934 that the devaluation of the dollar by 41 per cent would lead to such a superabundance of gold.  If, however, we look at Professor Cassel’s earlier writings, we find that he himself failed to foresee such developments, even at much later dates.  We read in the July 1936 issue of the Quarterly Review of the Skandinaviska Kreditaktiebolaget the following remarks by Professor Cassel:  ‘There seems to be a general idea that the recent rise in the output of gold has been on such a scale that we are now on the way towards a period of immense abundance of gold. This view can scarcely be correct.’ . . . Thus the learned Professor expected a mere politician to foresee something in January 1934 which he himself was incapable of foreseeing two and a half years later.  In fact, it is doubtful whether he would have been capable of foreseeing it at all but for the advent of the gold scare, which, rightly or wrongly, made him see things he had not seen before.  It was not the discovery of any new facts, nor even the weight of new scientific argument that converted him and his fellow-economists.  It was the subconscious influence of the panic among gold hoarders, speculators, and other sub-men that suddenly opened the eyes of these supermen. This fact must have contributed in no slight degree towards lowering the prestige of economists and of economic science in the eyes of the lay public.” (1937, pp. 26-27.).

Luigi Zingales tem uma exelente discussão (aqui). Um ponto importante está ressaltado nessa passagem: (Vale a pena ler o ensaio todo)

Besides the intellectual appeal of Friedman’s argument and the supporting empirical evidence, the EMT was also very attractive for its practical implications. By providing an objective metric for performance, the shared belief in efficient markets made everyone’s life easier. It was not one expert’s opinion against another’s: the market was the absolute and impartial judge. Once we lose this objective criterion, we are back in the world of self-interested opinions. All corporate executives will argue that the market undervalues their stock and that any drop in their stock price is due to market irrationality (while any increase is entirely justified by their actions). All politicians will claim that the rise in the yield of their government’s bonds is not the result of their profligacy, but of evil speculation or market irrationality (while ready to take credit for any reduction in the yield). Finally, all charlatans will feel entitled to claim that they have an investment strategy that can beat the market systematically. This is the uncharted territory where the crisis leaves us: a world where confidence in the rationality of the market is shaken but where there is no clear, viable alternative. 

Aritmética fiscal perversa

Gavyn Davies (aqui) discute se a Alemanha está agindo de acordo com seu melhor interesse ao “bater pé” contra transferências fiscais para as economias com problemas:

In terms of its effect on the long-term ratio of government debt to GDP, the damaging effect of a permanent increase in the interest rate spread of 1 per cent over Germany fully offsets the beneficial effects of reducing the budget deficit by 1 per cent of GDP for the troubled EU economies. Since the spring of 2010, interest rate spreads have increased by several percentage points for these countries and, if maintained, this would swamp the hard work done by several governments, including Ireland and Spain, to reduce their budget deficits.

The implication of this arithmetic is twofold. First, the strategy which has emerged from the EU Summit may not work, even if the troubled economies continue to deliver on their plans for fiscal tightening. Although they have managed to do this (on the whole) in 2010, the medium-term path for public debt has worsened considerably because of deteriorating refinancing costs as interest rates have risen. Second, the stronger EU economies could make a big difference to this outlook if they were willing to provide liquidity to the troubled economies at lower interest rates than they have been willing to countenance so far.