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[文篇赏析] Parsing prices

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发表于 2011-2-28 17:13 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
INFLATION is back. Despite a weak recovery in much of the world, the threat of rising prices preoccupies policymakers and the public. Concerns are greatest in emerging markets. Inflation stands at 4.6% in China and 5.9% in Brazil; in India it is almost 10%, if below last year’s high. But it is on the rich world’s agenda, too (see chart).
通胀归来。在许多国家,复苏依旧疲软,但物价上涨的威胁已使决策者和公众如临大敌。新兴市场的忧虑尤重。通胀率在中国为4.6%,巴西为5.9%,在印度虽比去年的高位有所下降,但仍接近10%。但在发达国家的日程表上,通胀也赫然在列。

Euro-area inflation hit 2.4% in January, according to data out this week. Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, has been talking tough, recalling the ECB’s July 2008 rate rise when concern over inflation trumped a wobbling economy. In Britain inflation has been above its 2% target since December 2009 and stood at 3.7% in December. Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, gave warning in January that it will soon climb to 4-5%. Even in America, where inflation has been at historic lows, it jumped to 1.5% at the end of last year.
本周出炉的数据表明,1月份欧元区通胀率达到了2.4%。欧洲央行主席让-克劳德•特里谢措辞强硬,令人回想起欧洲央行2008年7月的升息举措。当时,对通货膨胀的担忧压倒了经济衰退。英国的通胀率在2009年12月就超过了2%的目标值,在去年12月更是高达3.7%。英格兰银行行长默文•金在1月警告说,通胀率很快就会攀升至4~5%。在美国,通胀率一直在历史最低水平徘徊,但去年年末也升高到了1.5%。

Much of the surge in inflation reflects dearer commodities. As well as oil and food, metals prices have been soaring: the price of copper hit a series of record highs this week. More expensive raw materials will work their way through the supply chain over the coming months, pushing up on inflation. Another part of the story in Europe is the effort to plug fiscal gaps by increasing VAT, a consumption tax. A hike in VAT at the start of the year will have driven prices higher in Britain in January.
通胀高企很大部分要归因于越来越贵的商品。除了原油和食品,金属价格也已一飞冲天:本周,铜价创出了一系列历史新高。在未来数月中,原材料价格上涨将通过供给链进一步推高通胀率。欧洲通胀率高企还有另一大原因——为填补财政赤字而提高增值税(一种消费税)。今年初提高的增值税率将推高英国1月的物价。

A rise in commodity prices or taxes has only a temporary effect on inflation, however, with the price rise dropping out of annual comparisons after a year. The stuff of nightmares for central bankers is that this leads to a more pernicious type of inflation. Price rises change expectations of inflation, leading workers to bid for wage increases that preserve their buying power and firms to push through price increases, generating a vicious spiral.
不过,商品价格和税收对通胀的影响是暂时的,由于价格变动是同比数字,因此此类影响在一年之后就不复存在了。对央行来说,令人头痛的是这会导致一种危害更大的通胀。物价上涨会改变通胀预期,导致工人要求更高的工资以维持购买力,而企业则会提高价格,从而形成恶性循环。

These “second-round effects” are worth losing sleep over, but only when there is already inflationary pressure in the wider economy, from a tight labour market and firms running factories at full pelt. Such overheating seems some way off for advanced economies. The unemployment rate is in double digits in the euro area, above 9% in America and 7.9% in Britain. Wage growth has been weak, running below 1% in the euro zone and at around 2% in America and Britain.
这种“第二轮效应”的确令人辗转反侧,但其形成是需要条件的——整体经济由于劳动力市场紧张、工厂产能充分利用,已然存在通胀压力。目前看来,发达国家现状与这样的过热状态还有不小的距离。失业率在欧元区高达10%以上,在美国超过9%,在英国也有7.9%。工资涨幅很小,在欧元区不到1%,美国和英国也只有2%左右。

Inflation expectations have edged up a little in recent months. But even if workers expected inflation to let rip, they would be in a bind. Karen Ward of HSBC reckons anxious employees won’t ask for more pay for fear that they will end up getting the sack instead.
通胀预期在近几个月有所抬头。但即使工人预期通胀会恶化,他们也无能为力。汇丰银行的凯伦•瓦尔德(Karen Ward)认为,焦虑的打工者不会要求更高的工资,因为他们害怕因此被炒鱿鱼。

Rich-world economies are also running well below capacity. According to the OECD, in 2010 the G7 economies were anywhere between 2.4% (Japan) and 4.7% (Italy) below potential output. Such estimates are notoriously imprecise. But if the recovery had already eliminated excess capacity they would be in the wrong city, not just the wrong ballpark.
发达国家经济的产能也远未达到饱和。据经合组织的数据,2010年G7国家的产出与潜在产出相比,还有2.4%(日本)到4.7%(意大利)的差距。这项估计向来以误差大而著名。但要是复苏真的已经消除了过剩产能的话,那么错误的就应该是正负,而不是范围了。

The story is very different in emerging economies. Many of these got back to their pre-crisis levels of output in 2009. With capacity constraints starting to bite, underlying inflation is on the up. Households’ inflation expectations are also rising. In China they are at their highest for over a decade and there are signs of growing wage pressure. Higher wages are not, by themselves, a bad thing, especially in a country like China where pay has for years failed to keep pace with rapid productivity growth. The danger comes when loose monetary conditions and an overheating economy mean prices and wages chase each other upward.
新兴经济体的情况有很大不同。许多新兴国家的产出已经恢复到了2009年危机前的水平。随着产能约束开始起作用,基础通胀率开始抬头。家庭通胀预期同样在升高。在中国,通胀预期已经达到了十年来的最高值,并已经出现工资上涨压力的信号。更高的工资本身并非坏事,尤其是像中国这样的国家,收入增长长期低于生产率。危险在于宽松的货币环境和过热的经济意味着物价和工资会你追我赶,螺旋上涨。

To prevent that, central bankers have been fighting back with higher interest rates and higher reserve requirements. The Brazilian and Indian central banks raised rates last month; in total, they have now hiked their policy rates by 2.5 and 1.75 percentage points respectively. China’s central bank recently raised reserve requirements for the seventh time in a year.
为了打压物价-工资上升螺旋,各国央行纷纷以升息和提高准备金要求作为对策。上个月,巴西和印度央行均升了息;到目前为止,两国分别已累计提高利率2.5和1.75个百分点。而中国人民银行最近再次提高了准备金要求,1年内已七次提高准备金率。

For all that, monetary conditions remain extraordinarily loose. According to JPMorgan Chase, real policy rates in emerging economies—the official interest rate minus core consumer-price inflation—are at their lowest level since 2000. Core consumer-price inflation (which excludes food and energy prices) remains below its 2008 levels. But vigilance is needed. A continuation of booming growth and cheap money will cause trouble in the end.
尽管如此,货币环境仍然显得太宽松。JP摩根认为,新兴经济体的真实政策利率——官方利率减去核心消费物价通胀率——正处于2000年以来的最低值。剔除了食品和能源价格的核心消费物价通胀仍旧低于2008年的水平。但并不能放松警惕。持续的增长繁荣和低成本资金最终会引来大麻烦。

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