东亚论坛:日本央行负利率政策效果难料
2016-03-08 15:15:16
东亚论坛:日本央行负利率政策效果难料(2016.03.08)

  提要:日本央行的负利率政策已对日本金融市场产生了重大影响,日元兑美元汇率应声下跌,10年期日本国债收益率骤降至0.06%的历史低点。但这些金融效应能否推升日本通胀和有效刺激日本经济尚难预料。而且,就重振日本经济而言,相比央行的负利率政策,日本政府拥有更好的公共资金使用办法。

  (外脑精华·北京)日本央行负利率政策出乎市场意料

  日本今冬气温较为温暖,但日本金融市场的温度却在零度以下。1月29日,日本央行行长黑田东彦(Haruhiko Kuroda)宣布,日本央行将金融机构存入该行的超额准备金存款利率下调至-0.1%,这一负利率从2月16日开始实行。

  由于此举令市场始料不及,在今年初已涨至117-118:1的日元兑美元汇率应声跌至121:1。日本10年期日本国债收益率从1月28日的0.22%骤降至0.06%的历史低点水平。日本8年期以下的各种短期国债的收益率全面降至负值区间。显然,负利率政策对市场产生了重大影响。

  负利率意味着借贷机构非但不能获得存款利息,反而不得不为其存款支付利息。对像我这样的老派经济学者而言,这实在是令人匪夷所思,因为我们被传授的经济理论是名义利率不能为负值。这一命题背后的简单逻辑是,如果利率处于负值,借贷机构将不会选择进行放贷,而是会选择持有现金,从而使所持现金的名义收益率为零。但是,金融机构不能将其存入日本央行存款取出,因为日本央行推出的新措施中包括一种提款处罚机制。因而,如果日本金融机构要想避开负利率政策,需向其存款用于向客户放贷或是从市场上购买资产。促使金融机构进行放贷活动或购买资产是日本央行出台新政的目的之一。

  另一个目的是压低市场利率。但是为何要将日本国债收益率打压到负值区间呢?对任何投资者而言,持有现金都要比购买收益率为负值的日本国债更划算。基于这一点,有人或许会认为没有投资者会愿意购买收益率为负值的日本国债。因而,似乎一旦市场利率接近于零时,日本央行将无法进一步压低市场利率。要想了解这一逻辑为何站不住脚,我们需要回顾一下日本央行在过去3年的所作所为。

  自黑东彦田于2013年3月出任日本央行行长后不久,日本央行开始实施其“定性及定量宽松货币政策”(QQE)政策。“定性及定量宽松货币政策”中的一项主要内容是大规模购买日本国债和其他资产,旨在促使日本央行资产负债表规模在两年中翻倍。在实现这一目标后,日本央行继续购买资产。当前日本央行购买资产的速度为每年购买80万亿日元的资产。如此大规模地持续购买资产推动了日本国债收益率的下降,而且自2014年9月以来,央行一直在通过购买收益率为负值的日本国债来实现其量化目标。

  如果日本央行随时准备这样做,那么,金融市场参与者亦是如此,因为他们知道他们可以将其所持的资产以更低的利率出售给日本央行(即以比他们购买价格更高的价格出售给日本央行)。日本各类超短期国债品种的收益率在2014年开始降入负值区间,而且在去年12月,负收益率日本国债品种的范围扩大至日本3年期国债。日本央行近期采取的行动使得负收益率日本国债品种的范围大幅扩大,因为其向市场暗示日本央行决心通过其市场操作将已处于超低水平的利率打压至更低水平。

  基于价格目标而非量化目标的日本央行本次政策行动是其“定性及定量宽松货币政策”未能实现推动日本通胀率在2年内达到2%这一既定目标的一个佐证。“定性及定量宽松货币政策”实施已近3年,但日本通胀率在近几个月中仅处于略高于零区间的水平。这充分表明大规模注入流动性未能有力地提振需求强劲或是大幅推高通胀。日本央行在21世纪首次实施量化宽松政策的结果相同,美国的量化宽松政策的结果也是如此,而且欧元区的量化宽松政策可能同样以失败告终。因而,日本央行改变策略之举是可以理解的。

  负利率政策未必有效

  但关键问题是日本央行的负利率政策是否能有效创造通胀动能呢?如上所述,负利率政策确实对金融市场产生了巨大影响。但是,日本央行此前出台的“定性及定量宽松货币政策”同样对金融市场产生了巨大影响,造成了日元大幅贬值以及市场利率的下降,而且使得其中一些国债资产的市场利率降至负值区间。但是,这些金融效应未能转化为足以影响经济的“真正”效应。目前就此下结论还未时尚早,但我们不能过于乐观地认为这次情况将会有所不同。

  可以用来评估日本央行近期行动另一个视角是日本央行进一步放宽货币政策的空间。黑东彦田行长曾经公开表示,日本央行放宽货币政策的能力未受限制,虽然日本央行根据“定性及定量宽松货币政策”可从市场上购买的有形资产愈发不足。通过转向一种基于“价格”的措施,日本央行或许有能力继续放宽货币政策,如有必要,可能会将利率降至更低的负值区间。那么,最终,日本通胀率有望开始攀升。

  应该说日本央行行长黑东彦田打破禁忌和推行负利率的勇气可嘉,先通过其市场操作,目前则是通过其存款。但这一政策令包括我自己在内的许多人深感不安。以负利率进行市场操作意味着除零利率贷款外,日本央行在向借款人提供免费资金。这些借款人并非最贫困人群,但是著名金融机构不应依靠获得这类免费资金来盈利。

  毫无疑问,存在使用公共资金的更好方法。但这是政府的职责,而非中央银行的职责。在重振日本经济和确保日本经济可持续性方面,日本政府有许多事情可做,其中的一些事情甚至不需要增加预算支出。似乎日本央行正在被推入绝境,试图实现或许通过其他手段可以更稳妥更有效地来实现的目标。

  

  英文原文:The Bank of Japan’s sub-zero shock

This winter has been relatively mild in Japan, but at least in financial markets, it is sub-zero. Governor Haruhiko Kuroda of the Bank of Japan (BoJ) announced on 29 January that the BoJ would apply a negative interest rate of minus 0.1 per cent to deposits that financial institutions hold at the Bank, starting from 16 February.

Surprised by this move, the yen–US dollar exchange rate, which had appreciated to the 117–118 yen per US dollar range earlier this year, immediately weakened to 121 yen per US dollar. The 10-year Japanese government bond (JGB) yield, which was 0.22 per cent on the day before the announcement, dropped sharply to a historic low of 0.06 per cent. The yield on shorter-term JGBs of up to eight years turned negative. Clearly the market impact has been remarkable.

Negative interest rates mean that lenders have to pay interest, instead of receiving it. This is mind-boggling to an old-timer like me, who was taught that nominal interest rates could not be negative. The simple logic behind this proposition is that if interest rates were negative, lenders would not lend and instead hold cash, giving them a zero per cent nominal yield. With no lenders, interest rates cannot be sub-zero. But, financial institutions aren't withdrawing their deposits with the BoJ because the BoJ's new measure includes a mechanism that penalises withdrawals in cash. Therefore, if financial institutions want to avoid the negative rate on their deposits, they need to use them by lending to their customers or buying assets from the market. Inducing them to do so is one of the intentions of the new policy.

Another intention is to push down market interest rates. But why negative JGB yields? Any investor can do better by holding cash than by buying JGBs at negative rates. Because of this one might think there would be no one willing to buy JGBs at sub-zero rates, and hence yields cannot fall below zero. So it seems that once market interest rates are close to zero, the BoJ cannot push them down further. To see why this logic doesn't hold, we need to review what the BoJ has been doing over the past three years.

Shortly after Kuroda took office in March 2013, the BoJ began its ‘Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing’ (QQE) strategy. One of the key components of QQE was large-scale purchases of JGBs and other assets, aimed at doubling the size of the BoJ’s balance sheet in two years. After this was achieved, the BoJ kept buying assets. Its current pace is 80 trillion yen (about US$679 billion) per year. Such a massive and continuous asset purchase has pushed JGB yields down and, since September 2014, the BoJ has been buying JGBs at negative interest rates to achieve its quantitative target.

If the BoJ stands ready to do this, so do financial market participants, because they know they can pass the assets they buy on to the BoJ at even lower interest rates (that is, at even higher prices than they paid to buy them). Negative rates started from the very short end of the yield curve in 2014, and by December last year, the sub-zero range reached three-year JGBs. The BoJ's recent action substantially expanded the sub-zero range, because it signalled to the market the BoJ's determination to push the already super-low interest rates even lower through its market operations.

That the BoJ's policy action this time was not quantity-based but price-based is a testament to QQE's failure to achieve its stated objective: an inflation rate of 2 per cent within two years. Almost three years have passed since QQE's inception, but inflation has been barely positive in recent months. It has been amply proven that a massive injection of liquidity does not dramatically boost demand or robustly push up inflation. This was true when quantitative easing was first used by the BoJ in the 2000s, has been true in the United States and is likely to be true in the Euro zone as well. Hence, the BoJ's change of tactics is understandable.

Yet the key question is will the negative interest rate on BoJ deposits effectively create inflationary momentum? As noted above, it did have a sizable financial market impact. But so has QQE, under which the yen has weakened very substantially and market interest rates have fallen, some of them to sub-zero. Still, these financial effects have not translated into sufficient 'real' effects on the economy. It is still too early to say, but one cannot be too optimistic about this time being different.

Another angle to assess the BoJ's recent action is the scope for further easing. Governor Kuroda has been publicly saying that there is no limit to the BoJ's ability to ease monetary policy, in spite of the increasingly visible shortage of assets the BoJ could buy from the market under QQE. By shifting to a 'price' measure, the BoJ might be able to continue its easing, diving deeper into negative interest rates if necessary. Then, eventually, inflation might be ignited.

The BoJ under Governor Kuroda should be credited for its courage to break a taboo and introduce negative interest rates, first through its market operations and now with its deposits. But this policy makes many, including myself, uncomfortable. Market operations at negative interest rates mean that the lender (the BoJ) is giving out money to borrowers for free in addition to zero-interest rate loans. These borrowers are not the poorest of the population, but renowned financial institutions who should not be relying on such freebies for their profits.

Unquestionably, there are better ways to use public money. But this is the government's rather than the central bank's responsibility. To reinvigorate the Japanese economy and ensure its sustainability, the government can do many things, some of which do not even require expending budget resources. It appears that the BoJ is being pushed over the edge, trying to achieve something that might be more suitably and effectively achieved by other means.

Masahiko Takeda is a professor in the School of International and Public Policy, Hitotsubashi University.

来源:东亚论坛,作者:Masahiko Takeda
作者:Masahiko

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