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(经济学人) What happens when the Fed starts losing money

(经济学人) What happens when the Fed starts losing money当美联储开​始亏损,情况会怎样?

 

The Fed’s profits
美联储的利润
The other side of QE
量化宽松政策的其它影响
What happens when the Fed starts losing money
当美联储开始亏损,情况会怎样?
Jan 26th 2013 | Washington, DC |From the print edition

EVER since the Federal Reserve first started buying up financial assets back in 2008, some have fretted about taxpayer exposure. The private debt purchased by the Fed to prop up the financial system might sour. The government bonds it has bought with newly created money, a strategy dubbed “quantitative easing” (QE), could fall in value if interest rates rose.

2008年美联储首次购买金融资产以来,有些人就对纳税人暴露问题感到十分忧虑。美联储原来为支撑金融体系所购买的私人债务可能会不合格 。这种用新发行的货币来购买国债的策略被称为量化宽松政策QE),国债会随着利率的上涨而贬值。



The reality has been happier. The Fed’s assets have ballooned to nearly $3 trillion, mostly in Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS). It paid $89 billion in profit to the Treasury for 2012, the largest in a string of record-breaking remittances (see chart). Before the crisis, the Fed’s profits were typically only a third of that.

现实情况稍乐观一些。美联的总资产已经扩张到将近3万亿美元,绝大部分是以国库券或者抵押贷款支持证券(MBS)的形式存在。美联储2012年向财政部上缴890亿美元利润,这是在近年屡创历史记录的汇款额中最大的一笔。

The Fed makes its money much as most banks do: from the spread between the return on its assets and the interest paid on its liabilities. The Fed’s liabilities are principally made up of currency in circulation, which pays no interest, and reserves, the cash that commercial banks keep on deposit at the Fed. Since 2008 these reserves have exploded to $1.6 trillion, on which the central bank pays only 0.25% interest. The difference between that modest cost and the average return of about 3.5% on its bond holdings explains the whopping “seigniorage”, as the profit the Fed earns from printing money is called.

美联储盈利的方式与大多数银行类似:都来源于自身资产的回报和支付的债务利息二者间的价差。美联储的负债主要由流通中的货币(即商业银行在美联储的银行存款)构成,这部分的存款没有利息并作为储备金留存下来。该部分的储备金在2008年后爆增至16000亿美元,中央银行对其仅支付0.25%的利率水平。成本如此低廉,但其持有的债券资产的平均回报率约为3.5%,二者间的差距也就解释了令人咋舌的铸币税,铸币税是指美联储从印刷钞票中获得的利润。

Some Fed officials worry about what comes next. When the Fed raised rates in the past, it meant little for profits because reserves were trivial and earned no interest. Since 2008 the Fed has paid interest on reserves in order to maintain control of interest rates. So when the Fed eventually tightens monetary policy, it will have to pay out more interest. To absorb reserves it may have to sell some bonds for less than what it paid, incurring capital losses. In theory, it could end up losing money, a risk that grows the more bonds it buys.

一部分美联储的官员对接下来将发生的情况表示担忧。过去,因为储备金很少而且没有利息,美联储将利率提高就意味着利润全无。为了保证对利率的控制,美联储从2008年起开始对储备金支付利息。所以当美联储最终实行紧缩的货币政策时,它也将支付更多的利息。为了吸收储备金,美联储可能要不得不以低于买入的价格出售某些债券,也就产生了资本损失。从理论上讲,它最终会导致亏钱,而且买的债券越多,风险越大。

In a recent paper five Fed economists calculated that if the Fed buys $1 trillion of bonds this year and starts tightening in 2014, then the Fed’s profit will turn to loss by 2017. Cumulative losses could eventually reach $40 billion, from higher interest expenses and realised losses on MBS sales (the economists assume the Fed will hold its Treasuries to maturity). If interest rates rise more sharply than expected, losses could peak at $125 billion, and the Fed would pay no profit for six years.

在一份最近的研究报告中,5位美联储的经济学家预计,如果美联储今年购买了10000亿美元的债券并从2014年开始收紧,那么它的利润将在2017年时变为亏损。更高的利息费用和住房资产抵押证券(MBS)变卖的亏损(经济学家们假设美联储将持有国库券至到期),会导致最终累计亏损达400亿美元。若利率上涨大幅度超过预期,最多可损失1250亿美元,而且在六年内美联储无法上交任何利润。

For the government as a whole, these losses are less than meets the eye. The interest paid on reserves by the Fed partly substitutes for interest the Treasury would be paying the public if its bonds were not held by the central bank. But it may still worry some Fed officials, given the attacks it regularly endures from Republicans in Congress. “Being seen to have lost taxpayer money could only intensify pressures on the Fed, to the point where at least some of the central bank’s independence could be put at risk,” says Roberto Perli, a former Fed economist now with ISI Group, a broker. He thinks some officials could be worried enough to oppose continuing QE once it reaches $1 trillion at the end of this year, even if the economy is not yet up to snuff.

对于国家整体而言,这点损失微不足道。美联储支付的储备金利息中部分将转化为支付给美国财政部,如果美联储的债券并非由央行持有,那么那部分利息将不对财政部而对公众支付。但这仍然不能消除部分美联储官员的忧虑,国会中的共和党人还是经常抨击美联储。当美联储发现纳税金额的减少只会导致自身更大的压力时,就会导致一些中央银行的独立性备受威胁,前美联储经济学家、现任国际战略与投资集团(ISI)的经纪人罗伯特-皮尔利(Roberto Perli)如是说。他认为,即使现在的经济状况还远没有奄奄一息,但只要QE在今年年底达到10000亿美元,美联储的某些官员就会杞人忧天地反对继续推行量化宽松政策。

Whether such concerns would really blow the Fed off the course dictated by economic circumstances is debatable, however. The Fed would not actually need a taxpayer infusion. One of the perks of central banking is that it can print the money needed to pay interest. If that generates a loss, it creates an offsetting“deferred asset” on its balance-sheet, representing future profits it won’t have to send to the Treasury. The forgone profit would pale in comparison with total interest saved, higher tax revenue due to stronger growth and roughly $500 billion of profit that QE had previously made possible.

 

More importantly, the losses would occur only once the economy was healthy enough to require higher interest rates, which, after all, would be proof that QE had worked.

然而,上述的担忧能否让美联储忽略经济形势曾授予的经验尚不能确定。美联储实际上并不需要纳税人的资金注入。央行的一种补贴形式是它能自己印刷支付利息的钞票。如果印刷的数量过多,美联储的资产负债表上就会产生一项 递延资产(用于抵消未来应交而现在多交),意味着未来形成的利润不用再上缴财政部。放弃掉的利润与总共节约的利息支出相比,不值一提。经济增长更为强劲,加之先前因QE而达到的将近5000亿美元的利润,使税收收益效果更显著了。

更重要的是,只有当经济增长非常良好,好到需要更高的利率水平时,才会出现亏损。因此,说到底,这也是QE生效的证据。



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