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    美聯儲預測能力如何?基本是瞎蒙

    Bob Sellers 2019年07月06日

    金融市場相信,美聯儲一定能夠保持股市的正常運行和國民經濟的發展。其實不然。

    2019年6月25日,美聯儲主席杰羅姆·鮑威爾在紐約市的外交關系協會接受《紐約時報》記者尼爾·歐文采訪時回答現場觀眾的提問。在采訪中,鮑威爾討論了美國經濟面臨的挑戰以及美聯儲的政策。圖片來源:Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    很多人可能不知道保羅·沃爾克是何許人也。20世紀80年代,他曾經抽著雪茄走進國會山,一邊撓著腦袋,一邊解釋他打算怎樣用極高的利率來扼制失控的通脹。自那時起,人們對這位美聯儲主席的崇敬之情便有如滔滔江水,連綿不絕。

    美國人對沃爾克的崇敬,慢慢地演化成了對美聯儲的迷信。金融市場相信,美聯儲一定能夠保持股市的正常運行和國民經濟的發展(雖然嚴格地說,這兩者也并不算美聯儲的職責)。不過從美國當前的證券和債券價格看,在即將于7月30日和31日召開的美聯儲下次會議上,現任美聯儲主席杰羅姆·鮑威爾必將決定降息至少25個基點,這差不多已經是板上釘釘了。

    但是,美聯儲真的全盤掌握了當前的經濟形勢嗎?

    ACP投資集團的首席市場策略師弗蘭克·農齊亞托表示:“美聯儲的展望有些后知后覺了,它至少還應該降息兩到三次。國債市場正在強烈呼吁他們降息,但他們的動作太慢了。”

    當然,這也不是美聯儲第一次行動或者反應遲緩了。

    2007年6月,美國聯邦公開市場委員會(FOMC)的成員發布了他們對經濟的預測。接下來幾年,實際GDP的預測范圍和真實數據分別如下(取消了三個最高和最低預測,這種方法又稱為“中位趨勢預測”):

    2007年:預測值:2.4%~2.5%,實際值:1.9%

    2008年:預測值:1.8%~2.5%,實際值:-0.1%

    2009年:預測值:2.3%~2.7%,實際值:-2.5%

    2010年:預測值:2.5%~2.6%,實際值:2.6%

    他們完全沒有預測到近在眼前的經濟危機。

    公平地說,當時也沒有任何人預測到經濟危機已經迫在眉睫。而且,時任美聯儲主席的本·伯南克的反應,可能確實防止了經濟危機演變成另一場“大蕭條”。不過上面的例子也表明,要想預測像美國這樣一個復雜經濟體的走向,難度會有多高,2007年的事情就是明證,更惶論預測世界經濟的走向。

    在美國終于走出經濟危機后,FOMC在2011年6月又發布了預測。這次,實際GDP的預測范圍和實際值分別為:

    2011年:預測值:2.7%~2.9%,實際值:1.6%

    2012年:預測值:3.3%~3.7%,實際值:2.2%

    2013年:預測值:3.5%~4.2%,實際值:1.7%。

    這個準確率跟瞎蒙差不多。

    CF&P公司的經濟學家丹·米切爾表示:“我認為,經濟學家——不管是公立機構的,還是私營企業的,在預測短期走勢上都做得很糟糕。經濟學家更擅于預測長期趨勢,因為它基本上是由生產力和人口決定的——此外還有預測哪些因素會導致生產力上升或下降。”

    同樣的問題也發生在通脹上。在5月1日的FOMC會議后,美聯儲主席鮑威爾貌似對當前的通脹率感到困惑,因為它再次低于2%的既定目標。“一季度的低通脹是沒有預料到的……可能是出于某種暫時或特殊的原因。”

    現在,FOMC又發布了最近(2019年6月)的一份經濟和通脹預測。你可能想知道,其中有多少預測是基于智慧和經驗的,又有多少預測是一廂情愿的。

    根據其預測,美國實際GDP今后三年的中位預測值分別是:

    2019年:2.1%

    2020年:2%

    2021年:1.8%

    與此同時,這三年美國個人消費支出通脹率的預測值分別為1.5%、1.9%和2%。

    至于在經濟增長放緩、工資增長差強人意的大環境下,2%的目標通脹率如何能達到,FOMC則并沒有給出解釋。

    但是,當前要想預測經濟的走向,進而相應地制定利率政策,最大的挑戰可能并非在于GDP、通脹、工資、企業收益甚至全球利率等因素,而是在于另一個單獨的因素。

    上周,鮑威爾在外交關系協會接受采訪時表示:“我們已經聽到了很多關于貿易問題的擔憂,實際上,在上一份黃皮書(6月5日)中,貿易問題被提起的此數已經比上次翻了一番……也有很多關于加征關稅問題的討論,這就是不確定因素的所在,也是企業較為關注的問題。”

    不過鮑威爾也表示,關稅問題目前不會給美國經濟帶來重大威脅,因為關稅并沒有高到嚇人的地步,而且關稅帶來的成本增長是一次性的,不會造成持續性的影響。

    當然,并非所有分析師都這么樂觀。FXStreet公司的高級分析師約瑟夫·特雷維薩尼指出:“很多人都在擔心,如果中美貿易爭端、英國脫歐等事件沒有得到好的解決,世界經濟將朝什么方向發展。最近,全球經濟放緩的速度可能會顯著加劇,企業和消費者都會控制開支,導致歐洲和中國經濟進一步放緩——而這反過來又會影響到全世界,包括美國。”

    因此,上周末中美兩國宣布暫停征收新的關稅,并繼續進行貿易談判,這對全球經濟來說是個非常好的消息。不過美聯儲面臨的挑戰依然十分嚴峻,畢竟從歷史紀錄來看,美聯儲對GDP增長率和通脹的預測很少準過。而且就算它對國內外一些其他因素做好了應對準備,只要某人心血來潮發了一條凌晨的推特,就都有可能突然轉向。(財富中文網)

    譯者:樸成奎

    Ever since the towering figure of Paul Volcker would march up to Capitol Hill to smoke a cigar, scratch his head, and defend sky-high interest rates to break runaway inflation, public utterances by the reigning Fed chief have been treated with Yoda-like reverence.

    The reverence extends to the Fed itself, which the financial markets trust to keep the stock market going and the economy expanding (even though technically that’s not its job). In fact, right now it’s practically built into equity and bond prices that the current Fed Chair Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates at least 25 basis points at its next meeting on July 30-31.

    But is the Fed really on top of what’s going on in the economy?

    “The Fed’s outlook is 2-3 rate cuts behind the curve,” says Frank Nunziato, chief market strategist of the ACP Investment Group. “The Treasury market is screaming for them to cut rates and they’re moving too slow.”

    It wouldn’t be the first time the Fed was slow to act – or react.

    In June of 2007, members of the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) issued their economic projections. The forecast range for real GDP (The three highest and lowest projects were dropped, called central tendency projections) and the actual for the following years:

    --2007: 2.4% -- 2.5%. Actual: 1.9%

    --2008: 1.8%-- 2.5% Actual: -0.1%

    --2009: 2.3% --2.7% Actual: -2.5%

    --2010: 2.5% -- 2.6% Actual: 2.6%

    They totally missed the Great Recession.

    In all fairness, just about everybody else did, too. And the response by Ben Bernanke and his cohorts probably prevented the Great Recession from becoming another Great Depression. But the forecasting miss proves just how hard it is to predict the direction of something as complicated as the American – not to mention global – economy. And it’s especially hard to predict when the direction changes suddenly, as it did back in 2007.

    But after finally coming out of the Great Recession, here’s what the FOMC saw coming in its June 2011 forecast. Look at the forecast ranges for real GDP and the actual real GDP growth, respectively:

    2.7% to 2.9% versus 1.6% in 2011

    3.3% to 3.7% versus 2.2% in 2012

    3.5% to 4.2% versus 1.7% in 2013

    Not even close.

    “As a general rule,” says Dan Mitchell, economist at CF&P, “I think economists -- public, private, doesn't matter -- do a lousy job trying to guess the short-run twists and turns. We do a better job of estimating long-run trends -- basically driven by productivity and population -- as well as speculating on what might nudge productivity up or down.”

    A similar thing may be going on right now with a second component, inflation. After the May 1 FOMC meeting, Fed Chief Powell sounded puzzled by the rate of inflation, once again falling below the targeted rate of 2%. “The weak inflation performance in the 1st quarter was not expected...some of it appears to be transitory or idiosyncratic.”

    Now that the FOMC has released its most recent (June 2019) forecast for the economy and inflation, one might wonder how much of it is based on wisdom and experience, and how much is done with fingers crossed.

    The projected median change in real GDP:

    2.1% in 2019

    2.0% in 2020

    1.8% in 2021

    The PCE inflation is 1.5%, 1.9% and 2.0%, respectively for those years.

    The FOMC doesn’t explain how the elusive inflation target rate of 2% will be reached in an economy that is slowing, and where wages have only grown modestly.

    But the biggest challenge right now in predicting the direction of the economy, and as a result interest rate policy, may lie in a separate component – not GDP, inflation, wages, corporate earnings, or even global interest rates.

    Chairman Powell summed it up in an interview last week at the Council on Foreign Relations. “We’ve been hearing quite a bit about concerns about trade,” he said, “In fact, the number of mentions of trade concerns doubled in the last Beige Book (June 5th)… there is discussion of much greater tariffs, and I think that’s where the uncertainty is and that’s where the concerns are on the part of business.”

    But current tariffs, Powell said, would not represent a major threat to the American economy right now because they’re not terribly high and they are a one-time cost increase, not an ongoing one.

    Not all analysts are so sure about that. “There are large concerns about where the world economy might be headed if the U.S.-China trade dispute and Brexit are not settled on amicable terms,” says Joseph Trevisani, senior analyst at FXStreet. “The recent slowdown in the global economy could become substantially worse, with businesses and consumers holding back on spending and further retarding weak growth in Europe and China -- which would in turn impact the entire world, including the United States.”

    So the announcement over the weekend that China and the U.S. would withhold new tariffs and continue trade talks may be very good news for the global economy. But the challenge continues for a Fed that has a spotty record of predicting traditional economic factors such as GDP growth and inflation, while trying to react to global and domestic factors that could change direction at the drop of an early-morning tweet.

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