国家利益:欧洲金融危机卷土重来
2016-02-23 16:52:18
国家利益:欧洲金融危机卷土重来(2016.02.23)

  提要:2016年初,欧洲遭受了新一轮金融动荡的冲击,原因在于投资者对欧洲央行的信心下降、受困的欧元区国家的经济改革承诺失去可信度、紧缩计划疲劳症显现以及欧洲国债负担依然高居不下。在欧洲央行可用政策工具减少和欧盟面临诸多压力之际,欧洲金融危机正在卷土重来。

  (外脑精华·北京)2010年以来,欧洲经历了接连不断的金融危机。从2010年开始,希腊发生债务并且引发全球金融市场动荡,苏格兰举行了关于是否脱离英国的公投,西方与俄罗斯爆发了一场新的冷战,中东和非洲移民的源源涌入对欧洲的社会制度构成严峻挑战。

  2016年初,欧洲遭受了另一轮动荡的冲击。鉴于在全球经济面临陷入停滞风险之际,欧洲主权债务危机卷土重来的风险凸显,欧元区国家似乎正在滑入新一轮金融危机。

  欧洲一度摆脱了金融危机

  欧洲金融危机在2010-2012年期间引发全球市场动荡,在此期间,金融危机在希腊、塞浦路斯、葡萄牙、爱尔兰、西班牙和意大利的蔓延令欧元单一货币联盟和欧洲银行系统岌岌可危。

  这场危机的影响深远,导致一系列国家(尤其是南欧地区的欧元区外围国家)陷入了严重的经济衰退,进而被迫实施紧缩计划。在许多情况下,政府当局被迫加大支持力度来维系本国银行业的生存,在此过程中,各国政府吸纳了大量新债,进而使得预算赤字和公债双双激增。

  面对国际资本的投机性攻击,承诺将“不惜一切代价”捍卫欧元区完整性的欧洲央行行长德拉吉扭转了危局。虽然在2015年的大部分时间里,希腊仍是主权债务危机的一个导火索,但欧洲央行推出的量化宽松政策和其他政策稳定了欧洲和全球市场。

  虽然复苏步伐缓慢,但欧元区实际GDP增长重获动能,2015年欧元区实际GDP增速从2014年的0.9%提高至1.5%。与此同时,欧洲央行的量化宽松政策帮助提振了欧洲金融市场,而且从表面上看,似乎欧洲已经彻底摆脱了金融危机。然而,2016年初,欧洲又面临着新一轮危机。

  金融危机在2016年初卷土重来

  欧洲金融危机卷土重来的原因包括对欧洲央行和德拉吉继续确保欧洲摆脱危机的信心下降、经济改革(希腊和意大利)失去可信度以及饱受紧缩计划之痛的公众(尤其是希腊和西班牙)的怨声载道使得反对结构性改革的政治党派崛起。

  未能清理欧洲银行资产负债表也在令市场丧失对欧洲央行的信心,这使得投资者对贷款组合的实际状况愈发感到担忧。此外还有拖累整个欧盟经济增长前景的一些外部因素(如新兴市场经济增速全面下滑,尤其是中国)。

  全球股市和债市在发出一个明确的信号:欧洲金融危机正在卷土重来。由于投资者的恐慌性抛售,德国最大银行--德意志银行的股票和债券价格在今年2月双双暴跌。实际上,截至2月8日,德意志银行股价今年以来累计下跌了近30%,而且自2015年7月所创的高点回落了46%。德意志银行的业绩欠佳,2015年亏损68亿欧元,这是德意志银行业2008年以来首次出现全年亏损。

  诚如许多欧洲大型银行,德意志银行的问题源于经济增长缓慢、诉讼成本持续攀升、资本及合规成本上涨、贷款情况堪忧。盈利能力不足以及该银行衍生品风险敞口的信息缺乏透明度使得情况更显严峻。所有这一切使得德意志银行的可转换债券(银行债券中收益率最高的债券品种)成为众矢之,但若是面临巨大压力,德意志银行也将会成为首家债务违约的银行。

  为了应对其债券价格暴跌状况,德意志银行采取了行动来表明其具有偿付能力,并且回购了价值54亿美元的优先级债券。德国最高管理层被迫声明德意志银行“坚如磐石。甚至连德国财政部长朔伊布勒都出面来安抚市场,声称其对德意志银行“毫无担忧”。

  不过,投资者实际上主要是担心德意志银行不是处于良性发展状态。虽然德意志银行的股价随后有所回升,在欧洲银行业的问题依然存在。

  意大利银行业是一个重大隐忧。意大利经济状况不佳,2015年4季度实际GDP仅增长0.1%,而且意大利的多数银行无力发放新贷款。事实上,意大利银行业正在寻求通过与意大利政府合作开始债务证券化以及寻找私人买家来抛售一笔估值3300亿欧元的不良贷款。据英国《金融时报》报道,由于不良贷款占意大利贷款总额的17%,几乎相当于意大利GDP总产值,意大利银行业和意大利政府对此有一种紧迫感。

  存在问题的不只是意大利。自2015年12月举行选举以来,由于没有一个政党赢得单独组阁的半数以上席位,西班牙新一届政府仍未产生,葡萄牙政府已经转向宽松财政政策,爱尔兰将于2月26日举行选举。希腊再度与其官方债权人就一项新协议展开艰苦的谈判。养老金改革只有希腊诸多谈判事项中的一个抗争事项,而且齐普拉斯齐普拉斯政府在希腊议会中仍仅占微弱多数席位。与此同时,希腊社会依然动荡不安,经济再度陷入衰退。

  整个欧洲公共部门的债务仍处于过高水平,而且远高于2007年时的水平。欧盟统计局公布数据显示,意大利2015年公债/GDP之比为134.6%,而其2007年公债/GDP之比为99.7%。希腊的公债/GDP之比仍高于170%,而葡萄牙的公债/GDP之比超过了130%。

  情况不仅如此。英国将对是否留在欧盟举行公投,而且德国民众对移民大量涌入状况愈发不满使得德国总理默克尔的地位显得愈发不稳。英国退出欧盟和默克尔下台可能将会扰乱处在一个关键时期的市场和经济决策。

  总之,在欧洲央行可用政策工具减少和欧盟面临诸多方面压力之际,欧洲金融危机正在卷土重来。目前在一些欧洲北部国家和信誉更好的欧洲国家盛行的负利率政策不会是一剂良药,因为这一政策有其自身的诸多弊端。欧洲央行(正在讨论)从意大利银行业购买“不良债务”以及大型银行回购优先级债券及股票之举可能有助于在短期内支撑风雨飘摇的欧洲金融系统,但关于减少公共和私人债务和刺激经济自我维持增长的主要结构性问题仍需解决。随着欧洲开始应对新一轮金融危机,未来将出现更多的风险和市场动荡。

  

  英文原文:Can This Man Keep Europe Out of Another Crisis?

Eurozone countries are facing a new round of financial turmoil.

Since 2010 Europe has gone from one crisis to another. From that year forward Greece defaulted on its debt and rocked global financial markets; Scotland voted on its future status as part of the United Kingdom and opted to remain; a new Cold War developed with Russia; and waves of Middle Eastern and African migrants threatened to swamp Europe's social systems.

In early 2016, Europe is being hit by another round of turmoil. It appears the eurozone countries are heading into a new bout of financial crisis, with the risk that it morphs into another round of European sovereign debt crisis, all at a time when the global economy is threatening to stall.

Europe's financial crisis roiled global markets from 2010 to 2012, during which time Greece, along with Cyprus, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy, threatened both to sink the single currency union constructed around the euro and to upend the Europe-wide banking system.

The crisis was profound and plunged a number of economies, especially those in the Southern periphery, into severe recessions and biting austerity programs. In many cases, governments were forced to step up to guarantee the survival of their banks, in the process absorbing considerable new liabilities that exploded budget deficits and raised public sector debt.

The slide was halted by the European Central Bank's president, Mario Draghi, who pledged to do "whatever it takes" to defend the member states of the eurozone against speculative attack. Although Greece continued to be a sovereign crisis flashpoint through most of 2015, the ECB’s quantitative easing (QE) program and other policies stabilized European and global markets.

Although recovery was slow, real GDP for the eurozone regained traction with real GDP growth going from 0.9 percent in 2014 to 1.5 percent in 2015. As well, the ECB's QE program helped bolster European financial markets, and on the surface it appeared that the financial crisis was well over-at least until it re-appeared in early 2016.

The reasons for the return of the European financial crisis include an erosion of faith in the ECB and Draghi to continue to keep Europe out of crisis, a failure to maintain credible momentum on economic reforms (Greece and Italy come to mind) and the rise of political opposition to structural economic changes by publics hit by austerity fatigue (Greece and Spain stand out).

Confidence in the ECB is also eroding by the failure to clean up European banks’ balance sheets, which has left investors increasingly worried about the real state of loan portfolios. And then there are external factors (such as the collapse of growth in emerging markets, not least in China) that are a drag on economic growth prospects throughout the EU.

Global equity and debt markets are clearly sending a signal that Europe’s financial crisis is returning. In February, Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank (DB), saw its stock and bond prices ruthlessly pummeled by nervous investors. Indeed, on February 8 DB's stock was down close to 30 percent for 2016 and down 46 percent since its high in July 2015. The bank's performance has been poor, with DB suffering losses of 6.8 billion euros for 2015, its first full-year loss since 2008.

Like a number of large European banks, DB's problems are rooted in slow economic growth, ongoing litigation costs, increased capital and compliance costs, and worries over loans. The situation is not helped by the lack of profitability and poor transparency and disclosure over the bank’s derivatives exposure. All of this focused attention on DB’s CoCo bonds (Contingent Convertible bonds), which are the highest yielding of bank bonds, but also would be the first a bank would default on if under dire stress.

In response to the plunging value of its securities, DB moved to show that it was solvent and acted to repurchase $5.4 billion of its senior debt. Top management was forced to put out claims that the bank was "rock solid." Even the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble was brought into the act for reassurance, stating that he had "no concerns" about DB.

However, the fact that investor concerns focused on Germany's largest bank is not a positive development. This was brought home by the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "What is one to think of a bank that has to promise its customers and investors that it is able to pay back credits? How solid is a bank that has shed a third of its shareholder value in a month, and half of it over the course of a year? It's no longer just the customer of a couple of Greek banks that are asking such tough questions, but the customers of Deutsche Bank."

Although DB's stock subsequently regained some of its value, problems on the European banking front remain.

Italian banks are a major worry. With real GDP growth a meager 0.1 percent in Q4 2015, the economy is not in great shape and most banks are not in a position to make fresh loans. In fact, Italian banks are seeking to offload an estimated 330 billion euros of non-performing loans by working with the Italian government to securitize the debt and find private buyers. There is a sense of urgency as, according to the Financial Times, non-performing loans equal 17 percent of total loans and roughly the same amount of Italy's GDP.

Italy is not alone in its problems. Spain continues to lack a government since the inconclusive December 2015 elections, Portugal's government has swung to the left with looser fiscal policies, and Ireland is off to elections on February 26. Greece is once again in the throes of negotiations over reaching a new agreement with its official creditors. Pension reform is only one battle of many on the Greek front and the Tspiras government retains a very small majority in the parliament. Meanwhile in Greece, social unrest continues and the economy has fallen back into recession.

Throughout Europe, public sector debt levels remain too high, and well above 2007 levels. According to Eurostat, Italy's public sector debt to GDP was 99.7 percent in 2007 and in 2015 it was 134.6 percent. Greece's public sector debt to GDP remains over 170 percent, while Portugal's is a little over 130 percent. As Wolfgang Münchau recently wrote in the Financial Times: "The combination of high bond yields, expansionary fiscal policies, persistently high public and private debt and low growth rates is clearly unsustainable."

There's more. The British referendum on whether to remain in the EU looms and Chancellor Angela Merkel's position is seen as increasingly precarious in the face of rising German discontent over migration. A Brexit and Merkel's departure from the helm of Germany could be potentially disruptive to both markets and economic policymaking at a critical time.

In all, the European financial crisis is reappearing at a time when the ECB has fewer policy instruments to wield and the EU is feeling pressure on a number of fronts. Negative interest rates currently in vogue in a number of the northern and more creditworthy countries are not going to be a salvation as that policy carries its own set of financial hobgoblins. Buying “bundles of bad debt” from Italian banks by the ECB (something under discussion) and large banks buying back their senior debt and equity may help shore up the leaky boat of European finance in the short term, but the major structural problems pertaining to public and private debt reduction and stimulating self-sustaining economic growth still need to be addressed. More risk and market turmoil looms ahead as Europe grapples with the next round of financial crisis.

Scott B. MacDonald is a Senior Managing Director at KWR International and co-author of State Capitalism's Uncertain Future (2015).

来源:国家利益,作者:Scott MacDonald
作者:Scott

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