FlyTitle: Buttonwood

A spike in the dollar has been a reliable signal of global panic. Are we due one?

美元飙升向来是全球恐慌的可靠信号。危机要来了吗?

THERE ARE two types of sellers in financial markets. The first kind sell because they want to. They may need cash to meet a contingency; or they might coolly judge that the risks of holding an asset are not matched by the prospective rewards. The second kind sell because they have to. The archetype is an investor who has borrowed to fund his purchase and has his loan called. If there are lots of forced sellers, as can happen in periods of stress, the result is a rout.

金融市场上的卖家分两类。第一类是自己想要卖出。他们可能需要现金来应急,或者是冷静评估,认为持有某一资产的风险与预期回报不相称。第二类是不得不卖出。典型的情况就是投资者借钱买资产,然后收到通知被要求还款。如果出现大量被迫卖出者,正如在市场受压时期可能发生的那样,结果就是崩盘。

Involuntary selling can amplify any decline in asset prices. A called loan is not the only trigger. It might be a ratings downgrade; an order from a regulator; or a jump in volatility that breaches a risk limit. What happens in the markets then feeds back to the broader economy, making a bad situation worse.

非自愿卖出可能会放大任何资产价格下跌幅度。还款通知并非唯一的诱因,可能还有评级下调、监管机构颁令,或者波动性激增突破了风险限额。市场上的变化继而又会反馈给更广泛的经济,令糟糕的局面恶化。

This brings us to the dollar. An evergreen concern is the scale of dollar securities issued or held outside America. In the midst of the financial crisis of 2007-09, the Federal Reserve set up currency-swap lines with other central banks to deal with a lack of dollars, as borrowers outside America were caught short. In stressed markets a spike in the greenback is a tell. Investors sell what they own to buy the dollar not because they want to but because they have to.

这时焦点就来到了美元上。美国境外发行或持有的美元证券的规模从来都是一个关切点。2007到2009年金融危机期间,鉴于美国境外的借款人没有足够的美元偿还债务,美联储与其他央行建立了货币互换机制以应对美元紧缺。在市场受压时,美元飙升就是一个信号。此时投资者出售资产来买入美元,并非他们情愿,而是迫不得已。

So far the dollar has traded reasonably. In recent weeks it has rallied against a clutch of currencies hurt most by the slump in oil and commodity prices and lost ground against the yen and Swiss franc (the other havens in a storm) as well as the euro (see chart). Perhaps there are stresses out there, but they are obscured by other factors weighing on the dollar. There has been a sense that it is due a fall. It looks expensive on yardsticks of value, such as purchasing-power parity. The Fed’s interest-rate cut earlier this month, with further reductions likely, means that holding dollars has become less appealing.

到目前为止美元汇率尚算合理。近几周来,随着石油和大宗商品价格暴跌,美元对一系列受打击最严重的货币升值,而对日元和瑞士法郎(另外两种避险货币)以及欧元贬值(见图表)。或许压力已经存在,但它们被其他压低美元的因素所掩盖。市场一直感觉美元该贬值了。从购买力平价等价值指标来看,美元似乎是贵了。美联储在本月早些时候降低了利率,而且很可能进一步降息,意味着持有美元的吸引力已经减弱。

经济学人双语版-非自愿信号 Involuntary code

Yet it is easy to forget how bearish sentiment on the dollar was in 2008. Many expected it to fall in the teeth of a crisis that had, after all, originated in America. Instead it spiked as banks outside America scrambled to get hold of greenbacks in order to roll over the short-term dollar borrowings that funded their holdings of mortgage securities. In 2015-16 China ran down its reserves by $1trn in part to meet demand for dollars from Chinese companies who had borrowed heavily offshore. And notwithstanding attempts by countries, such as Russia, to de-dollarise their economies, the greenback is as central to the world economy as it ever was. If there are hidden strains in cross-border finance, they will eventually be revealed by spikes in the dollar.

但别忘了,2008年时市场对美元也是一片看跌情绪。当时许多人预计美元将在危机中逆行下跌,毕竟这场危机起源于美国。相反,由于美国以外的银行持有按揭证券的许多资金来自短期美元借款,它们为了贷款展期而争相购入美元,导致美元汇率飙升。2015至2016年期间,中国的外汇储备减少了一万亿美元,其中一部分就是用来满足在境外大量借款的中国公司对美元的需求。尽管俄罗斯等国家试图在本国经济中去美元化,但美元在世界经济中的核心地位却一如既往。如果跨境金融中存在隐性压力,最终都会通过美元飙升暴露出来。

It would be foolish to rule this out. No doubt pockets of stress will emerge in the coming weeks—a hedge fund, say, that has borrowed dollars to buy riskier sorts of assets and faces a cash crunch. But the sort of aggressive borrow-short-to-lend-long bets that intensified the 2007-09 crisis have been much harder to make. Banks have tighter constraints on their lending. Panic by overborrowed foreigners does not seem a first-order concern.

不考虑这种可能性将是愚蠢的。毫无疑问,未来几周将会出现零星的压力事件,比如一家对冲基金此前借入美元来购买更高风险的资产,眼下面临现金危机。但是,曾经加剧了2007至2009年危机的短借长贷的激进押注如今已经变得困难许多。银行已经收紧了对借贷的限制。国外过度借贷引发的恐慌看起来并非最需要担心的问题。

Other plausible, but voluntary, changes in behaviour would affect the dollar in a variety of ways, or not at all. Foreign investors might simply choose to sell (or refrain from buying) American securities amid the current turmoil—a sort of financial self-quarantine. But surplus savings must be put to work somewhere. Asian funds have been steady buyers of overseas debt securities. Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund, a $1.6trn pool of retirement savings, had signalled that it will increase its holdings of foreign debt and equities in the coming financial year. There is no sign that it is backing away from this, says Mansoor Mohi-uddin, of NatWest Markets in Singapore. Indeed there is a logic to its front-loading foreign-asset purchases, as a means of weakening the yen and helping Japan’s exporters.

其他貌似合理但自愿采取的行为变化可能会以各种方式影响美元,但也可能根本没有影响。在当前的动荡局势中,外国投资者可能干脆选择卖出(或者不再买入)美国证券——一种金融自我隔离。但储蓄盈余总要找个投资去向。亚洲的资金一直在稳步买入海外债务证券。日本的政府养老投资基金——一个规模达1.6万亿美元的养老金储蓄池——之前曾表示会在下个财政年度增持海外债券和股票。没有迹象表明该基金打算放弃这一计划,NatWest Markets新加坡分支的曼苏尔·毛希丁(Mansoor Mohiuddin)表示。事实上,日本提前购买海外资产是合乎逻辑的,因为此举可以削弱日元,助力日本出口商。

Japanese funds have in recent years preferred to buy euro-denominated debt, because the costs of hedging euro currency risk is low. But if the Fed keeps cutting rates, dollar hedges will become cheaper. Currency-hedged Asian investors might then tilt towards American assets. That would be neutral for the dollar (because of the hedging) but a welcome fillip for issuers of corporate debt in America.

近年来,由于对冲欧元汇率风险的成本较低,日本的基金更倾向于购买以欧元计价的债券。但如果美联储继续降息,美元对冲的成本也会降低。到时候,对冲货币的亚洲投资者就可能转向美国资产。这对于美元汇率而言并无影响(因为对冲的关系),但对美国公司债的发行人来说是利好刺激。

The dollar remains an unloved currency. Witness the surge in gold prices spurred by seekers of an alternative. It is the currency investors are forced to buy, not the one they want to buy. The dollar’s calmness is reassuring. A sudden spike in its value would be a bad sign indeed.

美元依旧是一种不受宠的货币。因投资者寻求替代品而导致的金价飙升就是证明。投资者是被迫买入美元,并非心甘情愿。美元平稳的时候令人安心,它骤然升值则实在是个不好的征兆。