31 marzo 2010

INFLACIÓN para salir de la crisis

Como penitencia para la Semana Santa, te envío unos artículos sobre la inflación como remedio a nuestros males. Es el run run que lanzan los economistas americanos. Es la mejor forma de reducir la DEUDA PÚBLICA y empezar a gastar de nuevo, de poner a cero el contador de gasto. Lo malo son las funestas consecuencias que tiene esta política, sobre todo, para los particulares. Hay que defenderse si llegara el caso de que optaran por esta vía y no la de la austeridad. Veremos.

Que pases unos santos días penitentes. Un abrazo

My Inflation Nightmare

Am I crazy, or is the commentariat ignoring our biggest economic threat?
16/3/2010 By Michael Kinsley

Right-wing talk radio these days is carrying fewer commercials for second mortgages. (Consolidate your debts, lower your monthly payments, and have enough left over for that dream vacation!) They’ve been replaced by commercials for gold. Gold bugs have long had a small place on the map of the American right, but to most people gold seems like a crazy investment. It doesn’t produce anything, unlike a company in which you might own shares. It can’t provide shelter, like a house. It’s too expensive to use widely in industry or commerce, except for tiny amounts that go into people’s mouths, wrap around their fingers, or hang from their ears. Gold just sits there. And yet the price of gold has gone from about $280 an ounce 10 years ago to about $1,140 today.

The only reason to buy gold is fear that the currency may collapse. Paper currency used to represent claims on a share of the gold in Fort Knox. Now it is just “fiat money,” backed only by the “full faith and credit” of the United States government. Ditto electronic money—the $5,000 you allegedly have in a savings account at the bank, whose only corporeal existence is on a hard drive somewhere. That $5,000 is $5,000 only because the government says it is. For the gold bugs, trusting the government seems as unwise as hoarding gold seems to most other people.
Another way to say “collapse of the currency” is to say “hyperinflation.” Hyperinflation is when inflation feeds on itself and takes off beyond control. You can have stable 2 to 3 percent inflation. But you can’t have stable 10 percent inflation. When everybody assumes 10 percent, all the forces that produced 10 percent push it to 20 percent, and then 40 percent, and soon people are lugging currency in a wheelbarrow, as in the famous photos from Weimar Germany.

Thirty years ago, we peered into this abyss and pulled back just in time. As inflation neared its peak of more than 13 percent, Jimmy Carter appointed Paul Volcker as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Using his control over the money supply, Volcker purposely plunged us into a deep recession, which is the only certain remedy. Carter got blamed for both the inflation and the recession that cured it. The columnist Robert Samuelson tells the story in his book, just out in paperback, The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath.

Even 13 percent inflation was a nightmare. A stable currency is firm ground on which you can build a life. Inflation turns life into Through the Looking-Glass: you have to run faster and faster to stay in the same place. Saving is for suckers, and money needs to be spent sooner rather than later. Planning even a year or two ahead becomes nearly impossible. Worst of all, economically, the hard knocks and lucky breaks of life, which people generally accept when they are distributed by fate, become politicized, and therefore embittering. Stop fighting, and you start losing.

Furthermore, as Samuelson notes, the damage is more than just economic. These days everyone is disenchanted with civic institutions and government. They hate the press, they loathe Congress, and so on. Studies by foundations puzzle over why. Was it the ’60s? No, it was the late ’70s and early ’80s, when government failed to deliver on its obligation to provide a stable currency.

Samuelson worries that “the entire episode” may “slip from our collective consciousness.” I’ll spare you the Santayana and just say that if we are doomed to repeat this particular bit of the recent past, the press has failed in its self-imposed obligation to be the “first draft of history.”
According to the considerable discussion of inflation on the Web, my alarm is misguided. Every economist I admire, from Paul Krugman and Larry Summers on down, is convinced that inflation will remain low for as long as we can predict. Greg Mankiw, who was George W. Bush’s economic adviser, has examined the evidence in his New York Times column and concluded that a return of debilitating inflation is pretty unlikely (although “current monetary and fiscal policy is so far outside the bounds of historical norms” that who can say for sure?). Krugman has charged that inflation fearmongering is a nefarious Republican plot. The Congressional Budget Office (usually known by its nickname, “the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office”) projects inflation rates of less than 2 percent for the next decade. Some say the real danger is the opposite: deflation, or prices (and wages) going down across the board.

Maybe I’m like those generals who are always fighting the last war, but I am not reassured. I worry that when and if the recession is well and truly over, there is a serious danger of another round of vicious inflation. (If the recession is not over, or gets worse, we’ll have other problems.) This time, inflation will be a lot harder to stop before it turns into hyperinflation. Whether Obama navigates these shoals successfully will be a big factor in his historic reputation. And journalists will be kicking themselves (and other people will be kicking journalists) for missing a disaster story on the level of Hurricane Katrina, if not 9/11 itself.

In short, I can’t help feeling that the gold bugs are right. No, I’m not stashing gold bars under my bed. But that’s only because I lack the courage of my convictions.

My fear is not the result of economic analysis. It’s more from the realm of psychology. I mean mine. The last time I wrote about this subject, The Atlantic’s own Clive Crook called me a “fiscal sado-conservative.” I would put it differently (you won’t be surprised to hear). Maybe, at least on economic matters, I’m a puritan. The recession we’ve been going through did not occur for no reason. Even though serious misbehavior by the finance industry triggered it, sooner or later it was bound to happen. For a generation—since shortly after Volcker saved the country, and except for a brief period of surpluses under Bill Clinton—we partied on borrowed money. We watched a real-estate bubble get larger and larger, knowing but not acknowledging that it had to burst. Then it did burst, and George W. Bush slunk off to Texas, leaving Barack Obama to clean up the mess. Obama has done the right things, mostly, pushing through a huge stimulus package and bailing out a few big corporations and banks. Krugman says we need yet another dose of stimulus, and maybe he’s right.

But this cure has been one ice-cream sundae after another. It can’t be that easy, can it? The puritan in me says that there has to be some pain. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been plenty of economic pain. But that pain has come from the recession itself, not the cure.

My specific concern is nothing original: it’s just the national debt. Yawn and turn the page here if you’d like. We talk now of trillions, not yesterday’s hundreds of billions. It’s not Obama’s fault. He did what he had to do. However, Obama is president, and Democrats do control Congress. So it’s their responsibility, even if it’s not their fault. And no one in a position to act has proposed a realistic way out of this debt, not even in theory. The Republicans haven’t. The Obama administration hasn’t. Come to think of it, even Paul Krugman hasn’t. Presidential adviser David Axelrod, writing in The Washington Post, says that Obama has instructed his agency heads to go through the budget “page by page, line by line, to eliminate what we don’t need to help pay for what we do.” So they’ve had more than a year and haven’t yet discovered the line in the budget reading “Stuff We Don’t Need, $3.2 trillion.”

There is a way out. It’s called inflation. In 1979, for example, the government ran a deficit of more than $40 billion—about $118 billion in today’s money. The national debt stood at about $830 billion at year’s end. But because of 13.3 percent inflation, that $830 billion was worth what only $732 billion would have been worth at the beginning of the year. In effect, the government ran up $40 billion in new debts but inflated away almost $100 billion and ended up with a national debt smaller in real terms than what it started with. Ten percent inflation for five years (if that were possible) would erode the value of our projected debt nicely—but along with it, the value of non-indexed pensions, people’s savings, and so on. The Federal Reserve is independent, but Congress and the White House have ways to pressure the Fed. Actually, just spending all this money we don’t have is one good way.

Compared with raising taxes or cutting spending, just letting inflation do the dirty work sounds easy. It will be a terrible temptation, and Obama’s historic reputation (not to mention the welfare of the nation) will depend on whether he succumbs. Or so I fear. So who are you going to believe? Me? Or virtually every leading economist across the political spectrum? Even I know the sensible answer to that.

And yet …


Stagflation Versus Hyperinflation

March 18, 2010, 9:16 am — Updated: 9:16 am -->PAUL KRUGMAN

I’m a bit late to this, but Mike Kinsley has an odd piece in the Atlantic in which he confesses himself terrified about future inflation, even though there’s no hint of that problem in the real world. He’s not alone: there are a lot of voices predicting imminent hyperinflation in 2009, make that 2010 (and yes, I am keeping a record).

What I want to take on, however, is this piece of analysis in Kinsley’s piece:

Hyperinflation is when inflation feeds on itself and takes off beyond control. You can have stable 2 to 3 percent inflation. But you can’t have stable 10 percent inflation. When everybody assumes 10 percent, all the forces that produced 10 percent push it to 20 percent, and then 40 percent, and soon people are lugging currency in a wheelbarrow, as in the famous photos from Weimar Germany.

Uh, no — at least not according to textbook economics, which makes a real distinction between the kind of inflation that bedeviled the 1970s and 1923 (or Zimbabwe)-type hyperinflation.
Hyperinflation is actually a quite well understood phenomenon, and its causes aren’t especially controversial among economists. It’s basically about revenue: when governments can’t either raise taxes or borrow to pay for their spending, they sometimes turn to the printing press, trying to extract large amounts of seignorage — revenue from money creation. This leads to inflation, which leads people to hold down their cash holdings, which means that the printing presses have to run faster to buy the same amount of resources, and so on.

The kind of inflation we had in the 1970s, the famous era of stagflation — high inflation combined with high unemployment — was quite different. Deficits weren’t the issue — actually, US deficits were much smaller in the inflationary 70s than in the disinflationary 80s. Instead, what you had was a combination of excessively expansionary monetary policies, based on an unrealistic view of how low the unemployment rate could be pushed without causing accelerating inflation (the NAIRU), plus oil shocks that pushed up inflation across the board thanks to widespread cost-of-living clauses in contracts. There was never any risk of hyperinflation; the only question was whether and when we’d be willing to pay the price in high unemployment of bringing inflation back down.

Kinsley seems to be confusing the logic of the natural rate argument, which says that expected inflation gets built into price-setting, so you need an accelerating inflation rate to keep unemployment below the NAIRU, with the very different logic of hyperinflation, which is about people fleeing money.

Meanwhile, for those predicting hyperinflation, my question would be: what is it about the United States now that looks different to you from Japan in say, 2000? Big budget deficits and high debt? Check. Huge expansion in the monetary base? Check. And yet Japan’s GDP deflator has fallen 9 percent since 2000


Kinsley: Inflation vs. Hyperinflation

By Michael Kinsley on March 23, 2010 9:06am

What kind of fool gets into a public argument about economics with Paul Krugman? In the April Atlantic, there is a column by me expressing alarm about the possible return of debilitating inflation, or even hyperinflation, as the only way that a government unable either to cut spending or raise taxes will be able to reduce the burden of the national debt. I acknowledged that all the big-name economists, including Krugman, think differently. Writing in his New York Times blog, Krugman demonstrates that at least I got that part right.

Krugman says that I mistakenly conflate inflation and hyperinflation, although “textbook economics…makes a real distinction” between the two. I will confess that I was not aware of this distinction. I thought hyperinflation was inflation out-of-control. Mea culpa. However:

(1) Krugman should stop bullying people with accusations of economic ignorance. I would never pretend to know a tenth of economics Paul knows. But if he means, in calling this distinction a matter of “textbook economics [subtext: you idiot],” that economic textbooks make this distinction, he is wrong. Or at least no such distinction between inflation and hyperinflation is made, despite an extensive discussion of inflation, in the leading economics textbook, by Harvard Professor Gregory Mankiw.

(2) Krugman’s definition of hyperinflation—“when governments can’t either raise taxes or borrow to pay for their spending, they sometimes turn to the printing press”—is more or less precisely what I wrote that I was afraid of. I suppose there’s a difference between the government printing money to pay off its debts (Krugman’s definition) and the government printing money to reduce the real value of its debts (my fear). But not much of one.

(3) Krugman, Brad DeLong, Matt Yglesias and others make the point that there is no current economic evidence of inflation on on the horizon. I conceded as much in the original piece. But using Krugman’s definition, hyperinflation is the result of explicit policy choices by public officials. There is a “real distinction” between this and inflation ordinaire, which results naturally from the interplay of economic forces.

Therefore, the fact that there is no sign of inflation today says very little about whether there may be hyperinflation tomorrow.There are reasons to worry that our political leaders may opt for inflation even if there is no economic evidence of it happening naturally. (Of course the interplay of economic forces can force the hand of public officials. But if we go down this road, we are muddying that key distinction between hyperinflation and inflation.)

I have been waiting for Paul Krugman to tell me how we are going to handle the debt, once we get this recession out of the way. No, really. There’s no economist whose judgment I trust more. (About economics, that is.) I’ve been all for the stimulus and the jobs bill and even, I guess, the sundry bailouts. But don’t we at some point have to start paying the money back? And how are we going to do that? Krugman’s failure (unless I’ve missed it) to give us an answer to that question is one of the things that makes me worry.

A final word to Matt Yglesias, who thinks my problem is “thinking too moralistically about the economy,” because I express doubt that we can escape without pain from the dilemma we find ourselves in. Obviously (or perhaps not) this is a prediction and not a hope. I am not in favor of pain. I just don’t see any way to avoid it. Yglesias apparently believes that we can escape our fiscal dilemma without pain. I would like to know how. And if there is such a way, why have we denied ourselves for so long? Why do we ever bother to show fiscal restraint? Why have taxes at all? Why deny ourselves anything money can buy? If $15 trillion in debt can be a freebie, why not $30 trillion or $60 trillion?

EEUU saldrá de la crisis subiendo impuestos a tope, no con inflación:

A Fiscal Train Wreck

(Greg Mankiw) A couple days ago, Bloomberg reported:

The bond market is saying that it’s safer to lend to Warren Buffett than Barack Obama.

Two-year notes sold by the billionaire’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in February yield 3.5 basis points less than Treasuries of similar maturity, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Procter & Gamble Co., Johnson & Johnson and Lowe’s Cos. debt also traded at lower yields in recent weeks, a situation former Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. chief fixed-income strategist Jack Malvey calls an “exceedingly rare” event in the history of the bond market.

The $2.59 trillion of Treasury Department sales since the start of 2009 have created a glut as the budget deficit swelled to a post-World War II-record 10 percent of the economy and raised concerns whether the U.S. deserves its AAA credit rating. The increased borrowing may also undermine the first-quarter rally in Treasuries as the economy improves....

While Treasuries backed by the full faith and credit of the government typically yield less than corporate debt, the relationship has flipped as Moody’s Investors Service predicts the U.S. will spend more on debt service as a percentage of revenue this year than any other top-rated country except the U.K. America will use about 7 percent of taxes for debt payments in 2010 and almost 11 percent in 2013, moving “substantially” closer to losing its AAA rating, Moody’s said last week.

Actually, a default on U.S. government debt is much less likely than another scenario, suggested by Paul Krugman:

How will the train wreck play itself out?...my prediction is that politicians will eventually be tempted to resolve the crisis the way irresponsible governments usually do: by printing money, both to pay current bills and to inflate away debt.And as that temptation becomes obvious, interest rates will soar. It won't happen right away....But unless we slide into Japanese-style deflation, there are much higher interest rates in our future. I think that the main thing keeping long-term interest rates low right now is cognitive dissonance. Even though the business community is starting to get scared — the ultra-establishment Committee for Economic Development now warns that "a fiscal crisis threatens our future standard of living" — investors still can't believe that the leaders of the United States are acting like the rulers of a banana republic. But I've done the math, and reached my own conclusions.

Actually, Paul wrote that in 2003, and we know now that his prediction of higher inflation did not come to pass. But budget deficits are much larger now, so maybe his logic will apply this time around. If it does, the inflation would adversely affect the real return on both government and private bonds.

My own guess is that the United States will raise taxes substantially, and taxes will reach levels as a percentage of GDP never seen in U.S. history (although common in Europe). The politics of that will be fascinating to watch. If the political process is stymied as our leaders debate the relative merits of tax hikes versus spending cuts, bond investors may get nervous, and we could get witness either the Krugman inflation scenario or the much less likely default scenario.

Y Morgan Stanley también entra en este debate:

Debating Debtflation

March, 2010 By Spyros Andreopoulos, Joachim Fels & Manoj Pradhan London

The Greek crisis has brought sovereign debt to the forefront, capturing markets' attention. We think another dimension of the sovereign issue, the inflation risks inherent in high levels of public debt for economies that can print their own currency, is being overlooked by the markets. High levels of public debt in many advanced economies raise the spectre of inflation, in our view: if high debt is deemed undesirable, but the political will for higher taxes and lower spending is lacking, then ‘soft default' through inflation becomes a possibility.

Recently, we have tried to put some numbers on the inflation risks inherent in the current and prospective US fiscal position (see The Return of Debtflation? February 10, 2010). We looked at a hypothetical scenario whereby policymakers attempt to stabilise debt to GDP at the current 60% level over the next ten years. The thought experiment assumes the debt is dealt with in exactly the same way now as in the post-war period (1946-2003). That is, if the same weight is given to inflation and real GDP growth as factors behind the erosion of the debt, we are able to back out the required inflation rates (for any given level of the deficit). We calculate that, over the next ten years, on average,

• a 5% deficit would require 9% inflation
• a 3% deficit would require 6% inflation
• achievement of a 2% inflation target requires a 1% of GDP budget surplus.

Scary stuff.

Clients and colleagues have questioned both our assumptions and our conclusions (see US Economics: We Can't Inflate Our Way Out, February 19, 2010). This is our response.

I. Our Assumptions, or: Why Debtflation Is Possible
For simplicity, we have assumed that interest payments, as a share of GDP, remain constant. True, this is a strong assumption. But even if interest to GDP increases with inflation, we don't think it will be by enough to prevent substantial debt erosion - at least for some time. Here's why.

What matters most for successful debtflation, our colleagues rightly point out, is whether the (effective, i.e., maturity-weighted) nominal interest rate on the debt can be pushed below the rate of growth of nominal GDP. Put another way, the question is whether, and for how long, inflation can lower the effective real interest rate on the debt. We believe that's possible for a sustained period: debt does not roll instantaneously; and bond yields are slow to incorporate changes in inflation. These two factors can be thought of as the crucial frictions that allow for debt erosion.

1. Debt maturities
The fact that the whole stock of debt does not roll every period means that the effective nominal interest rate on the debt is slow to respond to an increase in market yields. For the US, average maturity on Treasury debt is poised to exceed the postwar average of about 5 years by the end of fiscal 2012 (September), on our forecasts. The implication is that even if market yields were to adjust instantaneously to the higher inflation regime, effective nominal interest rates on the debt would respond only partially. So there is a debt erosion effect even if inflation were to be perfectly anticipated.

2. Yields are slow to adjust to a new inflation regime
Inflation - especially a change in the inflation regime - is rarely, if ever, perfectly anticipated. Inflation expectations lag behind actual inflation. In turn, bond yields lag behind inflation expectations. Evidence is abundant:

• Historically, yields lag behind inflation. Throughout the 1970s, bond yields never meaningfully caught up with the inflation takeoff: real interest rates were mostly very low - indeed negative for sustained periods - a bad time for bonds. Exactly the opposite happened during the Great Moderation of the 1980s and 90s. The sustained decline in inflation meant real interest rates were high, giving rise to a long bull market for bonds.

• Statistical work suggests the same conclusion. The empirical academic literature suggests both that bond yields take a long time to incorporate inflation expectations, and that inflation expectations themselves are sticky. Put another way, the fact that nominal yields take time to catch up with inflation gives rise to the observed negative correlation between inflation and real yields.

In short, inflation lowers the real effective interest rate the government pays on the debt through reducing a) the nominal effective interest rate, and b) real market yields. Moreover, the evidence suggests that these mechanisms work over a sustained period of time - allowing substantial debt erosion.

And there are additional reasons that make inflation relevant today. The evidence strongly suggests that, for the US as well as internationally, high debt has historically come hand in hand with lower growth as well as higher inflation (see Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, Growth in Times of Debt, NBER Working Paper 15639). For the US, they show that debt to GDP ratios in excess of 90% have meant materially higher inflation and lower growth. Indeed, we expect trend growth to be lower across developed economies over the next five years. But sluggish real growth leaves fewer options of dealing with the debt.

II. The Road to Debtflation, or: Global Inflation Risks Intensifying
Yet inflation is low almost everywhere. And with yawning output gaps, surely inflation is nothing to worry about. Policymakers, some say, couldn't inflate even if they wanted to.

Not quite. It is true that inflation will remain subdued for some time to come. But inflation risks are visible on the horizon. Our US team expects the inflation picture to turn at around the middle of the year, as import prices pick up and the output gap narrows (see US Economics, Mind the Gap: Even Record Slack in the Economy Won't Crush Inflation, January 29, 2010).
But there are further reasons to worry about inflation (see Global QE, Global Inflation, July 1, 2009).

• In many advanced economies, there may be less slack than meets the eye. Output gap measures are highly unreliable most of the time - but even more so when an economy is undergoing structural change. The US and the UK for example need to turn from consumers into producers. This means a lot of the spare capacity is in sectors where it is not needed, for example in construction. But worker skills may not be immediately transferable: the resulting unemployment may not exert as much downward pressure on wages. And skill shortages in the expanding sectors may still allow wages to be bid up there.

• Dollar peggers in EM have been importing the Fed's ultraexpansionary monetary policy. Some of these economies risk overheating, generating upward pressure for commodity prices globally and DM import prices.

• There is an enormous amount of monetary stimulus in the system. Since the beginning of QE in September 2008, narrow money M1 is higher by 11.5% in the US, and 17% in the euro area. This monetary expansion is unlikely to be reversed before policy rates are back, or above, neutral - a long way off on our forecasts. For the US, additional risks emanate from the 1.1 trillion dollars of excess reserves in the banking system: if banks decide to increase lending as growth recovers, some of those reserves could find their way into the economy (see ER, RR, IOR, and RRR, February 17, 2010).

III. Our Conclusions, or: Inflation Targeting in Times of Debt
Some clients and colleagues also disagree with our view of central banks (CB). Surely, a DM CB would never monetise public debt? In a nutshell, we think that in the game of chicken between the fiscal authority and the CB, it may well be the CB that swerves: it could be preferable for a rational CB to create some controlled inflation now to ease public and private sectors with their debt burden, than risk the debt creating greater problems down the line. We think that CBs are likely to continue to pay lip service to existing inflation targets, while more often than not overshooting them. Cynical? But this would only be a repeat of what happened over the last ten years or so (see From Inflation Targeting to Price Level Targeting? July 15, 2009).

Note also that when public - and private - debt is high, a CB that is being consistent on its inflation targeting (IT) could do serious damage to the economy. Recall that IT works if the CB responds to deviations of inflation from the target by increasing the nominal interest rate by more than one for one with inflation. In other words, IT does by design what is worst for highly indebted public and private sectors: increase the real interest rate on the debt.

In short, public and private leverage imply substantial constraints on monetary policy. At best, the risks are ‘soft' IT and creeping inflation. At worst, (continued) monetisation of public debt and a new regime of high inflation.

Finally, consider this scenario. Suppose inflation jumps higher because any of the risks the Fed itself recognises materialise - even against the Fed's best intentions. Would the Fed then push the economy into recession to squeeze inflation out of the system, or acquiesce and accept higher inflation, at least temporarily? We leave the answer to investors' own judgement.

Bottom Line

The Greek crisis likely marked the beginning of a wider sovereign risk crisis. We think this crisis may well engulf central banks too, as high levels of public and private debt will test monetary authorities' resolve - and ability - to deliver price stability going forward. Meanwhile, we think investors should hedge against inflation risks.

Los problemas de EEUU se resumen en la insostenibilidad de su DEUDA PUBLICA, algo que nos es muy conocido aquí en España. Morgan Stanley hace una simulación de qué déficit público tendría que tener EEUU para conseguir estabilizar la deuda pública americana y que no siga subiendo. Pues el tercer factor es el que nos temíamos: hay que tener inflación para que esto ocurra, para que se devalúe el dinero y se reduzca la deuda pública. ¿Podríamos asumir una tasa de inflación del 4-6% durante un cierto periodo, se plantea la FED?

Advierten de la racionabilidad de reducir la DEUDA PUBICA simplemente devaluándola, generando inflación. Entonces, concluyen, hay que PRESERVAR EL CAPITAL por doble motivo, por riesgo de default y por riesgo de que se nos devalúe por la inflación.

Economics: The Return of Debtflation?

February, 2010 By Spyros Andreopoulos London
US public debt as a share of GDP is now higher than at any other time in history except after World War 2 - and rising: our US colleagues expect public debt to GDP to increase to 87% by 2020 (see US Budget Forecast Update: The Song Remains the Same, January 29). How policymakers will deal with this fact will likely be one of the main drivers across markets going forward. So what are the implications of high public sector debt for fiscal sustainability and inflation? To answer this question, we look at how the US economy escaped high debt following World War 2. We then quantify the inflation risks inherent in today's US fiscal position by asking what would happen if policymakers were to deal with the current debt overhang in the same way.

Stabilisation of public debt to GDP at current levels would require average inflation rates between 4-6% over the coming decade - even under much lower budget deficits than currently in place. On our numbers, even with budget deficits that are much lower than the current (and projected) levels, average inflation over the next ten years would have to be substantially above 2% to keep debt in check. Even a balanced budget would require 3% average inflation over the next decade. With an average deficit as low as 3% of GDP, debt stabilisation would require average inflation above 6%. Note that in the current fiscal year (FY) we expect a deficit of 9% of GDP, projected to decline to 5.2% of GDP by 2020. Suppose the government were to reduce the deficit to 5.2% from 2011 onwards - rather than by 2020. Stabilising the debt at current levels would then require an inflation rate of 9% on average over the next 10 years. What level of deficit would be consistent with achieving a 2% inflation target, on average, over the next 10 years? A 1% of GDP budget surplus.

It is clear that inflation risks of this magnitude are not in the price: currently, markets are anticipating inflation to be below 2.5% over the next 10 years, on average. Should we be worried about ‘debtflation' - the Fed engineering inflation to keep the debt in check? A forward-looking central bank may prefer to create a little controlled inflation now to the pressure of inflating a lot later on. And the idea of controlled inflation has influential advocates in policy circles. Former IMF Chief Economist Kenneth Rogoff has suggested the Fed announce a 4-6% inflation target for a limited period. Coincidence?

1. The Fiscal Consequences of the Crisis
The financial crisis and the Great Recession have increased US public indebtedness substantially. The debt to GDP ratio has shot up from 37% pre-crisis (fiscal year 2007) to around 60% in FY 2010, on our forecasts. With the exception of the World War 2 peak, this is higher than at any other time in the entire history of the US - including World War 1 or the Great Depression. From a fiscal perspective, it's as if the economy has just gone through World War 3.
And it's likely to get worse, implying fiscal and inflation risks. Our US colleagues expect public debt, as a share of GDP, to climb further to 87% by 2020 (see US Budget Forecast Update: The Song Remains the Same). Given this trajectory, fiscal sustainability remains a concern with investors and the public. Further, given the historical link between high public debt and inflation both in the US and internationally, such a precarious fiscal position may also pose a danger for price stability.

Quantifying these inflation risks with the help of history - and a simple accounting framework. Yet how large, exactly, are the inflation risks inherent in the current US debt position? Could inflation substitute for budgetary tightening in the pursuit of fiscal sustainability? Conversely, what is the size of the budget deficit or surplus consistent with low inflation? In short, what are the options policymakers have to keep debt in check? To answer these questions, we look to history for guidance. We ask through what mechanisms - the budget balance, economic growth, or inflation - did the US economy escape the record World War 2 debt levels? In other words, what mix of fiscal and monetary policies ensured fiscal sustainability after World War 2? Assuming the same mix is applied to the current situation, we can then put a number on long-term inflation risks.

2. Looking Back: A History Lesson
War debt burden was reduced not through budget surpluses... World War 2 left the US with a large debt overhang. In 1946, US public debt was 108.6% of GDP. Nearly 60 years later, in 2003, public debt to GDP was just 36%. Within two generations, debt had been reduced by over 70pp of GDP. This corresponds to an average decrease of debt/GDP (‘the debt ratio') by 1.2% every year. How was this achieved? Remarkably, between 1946 and 2003 the federal budget was, on average, in deficit, to the tune of 1.6% of GDP as the surplus in the primary balance (0.3% of GDP on average) was not enough to cover interest payments on the debt (1.9% of GDP on average).

...but through (nominal) economic growth... So how was the debt ratio reduced despite the US government having, on average, run budget deficits? The answer is, of course, through growth in nominal GDP. The denominator in debt/GDP grew faster than the numerator, bringing down the ratio over time. By how much, exactly? Nominal GDP growth reduced the debt/GDP ratio by 2.8%, on average, between 1948 and 2003.

... with the inflation effect larger than the real GDP growth effect! But this begs a more important question: how much of the erosion of the debt was due to growth in the real economy and how much of it was due to inflation? We split the Nominal Growth Effect (NGE) on the debt ratio into a Real Growth Effect (RGE) and an Inflation Effect (IE; we explain the accounting framework in the Appendix in the full stand-alone note).

Our numbers show that while real GDP growth reduced debt/GDP by 1.3% on average, the effect of inflation on the debt ratio was larger: 1.6%, on average, between 1946 and 2003. (In relative terms, 56% of the total Nominal Growth Effect on the debt ratio is due to inflation, with the remainder being due to real GDP growth.)

Note that the largest contribution of inflation to debt reduction came in the decade immediately after World War 2 (1946-1955). Despite a primary surplus of 1.2% of GDP, overall the budget was in deficit by 0.3% of GDP on average. Yet, the debt was reduced by 4.9% of GDP a year, through a nominal growth effect of 5.2% annually, as nominal GDP growth averaged 6.5% over the period. This very large nominal growth effect is mainly due to a substantial inflation effect - inflation averaged 4.2% over the period - which reduced debt to GDP by 3.7% every year, and to a much lesser extent to real GDP growth, which on average contributed 1.5% of GDP to debt reduction. The 1970s - the time of the Great Inflation - also exhibited a sizeable inflation effect. How come inflation was so successful in eroding the debt? We see three main factors. First, outlays were not closely linked to inflation. Second, bondholders were surprised by inflation both after the war and in the 1970s. Third, in the first post-War decade, the average maturity of the debt was - at more than 100 months - exceptionally high.

3. What If? Looking Ahead
Suppose policymakers deal with the debt now in the same way they did after WW2. Assuming the same relative roles for inflation and real economic growth as in the post-War period, how much inflation is needed, for a given budget deficit, to keep the debt ratio from increasing? Conversely, assuming a given inflation target - say 2% - what is the size of the budget deficit or surplus required to keep debt from increasing?

Our assumption for the policy objective is stabilising the debt ratio at our current estimate for FY 2010 - 60% of GDP - rather than it increasing to 87% by 2020, our long-term projection (see US Budget Forecast Update: The Song Remains the Same). On the fiscal policy side, policymakers control the primary deficit - the deficit excluding interest payments on the debt - rather than the total deficit (at least in the long run). Hence, the choice between inflation and the budget deficit is really a choice between inflation and the primary deficit, given the size of interest payments (as a share of GDP).

The Deficit-Inflation Frontier. Given the choice of (primary) deficit and the historical sizes of inflation and real GDP growth effects, we can calculate the inflation rate required to achieve the debt target: the Deficit-Inflation Frontier (DIF). On the horizontal axis we have the primary deficit, on the vertical axis the inflation rate. The DIF with the solid line assumes the long-term average (1946-2003) IE and RGE. The line above that assumes the 1946-1955 IE and RGE - it is above the long-term average DIF because in the first post-war decade the erosion of the debt was heavily skewed towards inflation. The least inflationary debt erosion took place in 1996-2003. Based on the IE and RGE of that period, we obtain the lower DIF.

Primary surpluses of at least 2.4% of GDP required to achieve a 2% inflation target. According to our numbers, with inflation at 2% on average, a primary surplus of 2.4% of GDP is required in the benchmark case of debt stabilisation at current levels. Given 1.4% interest to GDP, this implies that a 1% budget surplus is required. After World War 2, primary surpluses of the required level have been achieved during one period only: 1996-2003.

A balanced primary budget would imply inflation of 4.7%. If government expenditure other than interest equals revenue, the primary balance would be zero. (The budget deficit would then be equal to interest expenditure.) In such a case, the inflation rate required to keep debt stable is 4.7%. What inflation rate would be consistent with the primary surpluses we have seen historically? The average primary surplus as a share of GDP over 1946-2003 was 0.3%. Stabilising the debt ratio at 60% with this primary surplus would require inflation of 4.3% on average. A primary deficit of 1.2% - the 1915-2003 average - would imply an inflation rate of 6.1%.

Caveats. Our framework does not take into account the following factors: First, a given level of inflation may not have the same effect on the debt because the average maturity is shorter - though rising quickly towards, and above, the historical average on our forecasts. Second, by now almost half of federal outlays are de facto indexed to inflation. What does this mean for the inflation risks we outline? Essentially, that possibly even more inflation is needed to erode a given level of debt - at least mechanically (see also our discussion in the Box of our stand-alone note). And finally, we don't take into account the potential effect of higher inflation on real GDP growth in the medium term - or of the potential repercussions of an inflation spiral. Nevertheless, these caveats do not substantially affect our main message. The level and trajectory of the debt imply tough choices between fiscal rectitude and price stability.

4. Debtflation Nation?
This leaves one question open. Why would the Fed - in principle an independent institution - want to generate inflation? Independence means the Fed cannot be forced to inflate - at least not directly. Recent threats to its independence aside, for inflation to take hold it must be because the Fed allows it to happen. Surely, this is inconceivable?

Maybe not. Consider a Fed that faces the prospect of an 87% debt ratio in ten years' time, with population ageing and all its negative budgetary consequences imminent. In that case, a rational central bank may prefer to create a little inflation now rather than having to create a lot of inflation later on (see "Debtflation", The Global Monetary Analyst, October 21, 2009). The forthcoming increase in the average debt maturity will help.

Last but by no means least, note that the range of inflation rates we have calculated here - around 5% for the case of a roughly zero primary balance - are already being debated in policy circles. Former IMF chief economist Kenneth Rogoff has advocated a 4-6% inflation target for the Fed, and ex Bank of England MPC member David Blanchflower has made similar proposals. And Professors Aizenman and Marion calculate - in a different framework - that a "moderate" inflation rate of 6% could reduce the debt/GDP ratio by 10 percentage points within four years (see "Using Inflation to Erode the US Public Debt", NBER Working Paper 15562).

We think investors should take note - and buy TIPS, rather than CDS, if they are worried about ‘default': while hard default is inconceivable, soft default through inflation is a clear risk.

PD1: En España pasa lo mismo. “Twin deficits”: doble déficit: PUBLICO y EXTERIOR. Doble problema. Le vale la misma solución: mucha inflación, es la forma que todo valga menos. Pero hay que preservarse de la inflación: es un impuesto. Es penosa. Es mala, muy mala

PD2: Da miedo. Pensar en que la solución a nuestros males es espiral de inflación, se devalúa la deuda pública, y aquí paz y mañana gloria. Da mucho miedo. ¿No se pasarán de listos? Espero que no esté todo pensado y repensado. Ay de los políticos!!!

PD2: Como ven al mundo los americanos:

30 marzo 2010

crisis de deuda publica

En España hay una especie de idea de que nos libraremos de la crisis de la deuda publica gracias a los bancos. Van a devolverle al Gobierno favores. Le van a suscribir toda la deuda pública que pueden en este año. El año pasado ya lo hicieron. Se financiaban al 1% en el BCE y compraban deuda española al 3,8%. Un chollo de margen. Este año siguen, aunque el BCE ya ha avisado que este chollo se les acabará. Este año el Tesoro Público español tiene que colocar 400.000 millones de euros de deuda entre vencimientos y nuevo déficit. Un pastizal.

Te dejo un comentario, en español uff…, de un ejecutivo del BCE sobre su visión de la crisis de DEUDA.

Juergen Stark: Existe un riesgo claro de crisis de deuda soberana

Juergen Stark forma parte de la junta ejecutiva del BCE, junto con Trichet, Papademos, Smaghi, González-Páramo y Tumpel-Gugerell. Este martes comentó en un debate en Bruselas que existía un “riesgo claro” de crisis en la deuda de algunas de las economías más avanzadas.

Este tipo de declaraciones son poco frecuentes, especialmente cuando proceden de funcionarios de tan alto rango, y aún más raras en boca de cargos ejecutivos de un banco central. En cualquier caso son una gran demostración de transparencia y racionalidad.

Vino a decir que los episodios económicos del año pasado son únicos por su gravedad, pero sólo han podido resolverse temporalmente con la actuación concertada de los gobiernos y los bancos centrales. Ahora toca comenzar a retirar las medidas extraordinarias con cautela para garantizar la recuperación económica.

Existe un riesgo claro de que entremos en una tercera oleada, una crisis de deuda soberana en gran parte de las economías avanzadas… Muchos países de la zona euro se tienen que enfrentar con grandes déficit presupuestarios y bruscos incrementos en los niveles de deuda pública… La recuperación se ha producido en gran parte por las masivas medidas de apoyo tomadas por los gobiernos y los bancos centrales… Pero las incertidumbres son todavía elevadas, pues los estímulos fiscales y el ciclo de inventario que están sosteniendo actualmente el crecimiento en muchos países son de carácter transitorio y en consecuencia permanecen los riesgos en el sector financiero.

Esta claridad de exposición se completa muy bien con la conferencia de Stark en Seúl el 25 de febrero, titulada Reconstruyendo la economía mundial. Rediseñando la estructura macro y que parcialmente se traduce a continuación. Parece una fuerte advertencia contra EEUU y la tentación tan bernankiana de que el dinero retenido en la Fed termine fluyendo hacia la economía, las bolsas o las materias primas. Una prueba indirecta por otro lado de que todavía se están discutiendo las medidas a adoptar por los bancos centrales y que finalmente se está operando sobre la marcha.

El marco de la política monetaria

Recientemente han argumentado algunas voces que los bancos centrales deben actuar como gestores de riesgo organizando su marco de trabajo con el objetivo de evitar eventos que puedan conducir a la deflación. Y todavía se ha llegado a decir que, en este marco de trabajo, los bancos centrales deben relajar sus objetivos y dirigirse hacia tasas de inflación más elevadas. Estas cuestiones han salido a la luz al preguntar si no sería apropiado mantener un objetivo de inflación más elevado, en torno al 4%. Algo que iba a permitir más espacio para que la política monetaria pudiera reaccionar a shocks más grandes y adversos.

Me opongo con fuerza a esta idea. Relajar las obligaciones de los bancos centrales en esta dirección sería un error gravísimo. Déjenme que les explique por qué.

Ciertamente, podría ser tentador para los gobiernos sugerir una inflación más elevada para poder monetizar el dramático crecimiento de la deuda pública. Pero pedir a los bancos centrales que eleven la inflación permanentemente desvía el foco de atención del principal problema actual, que es la amenaza sobre la estabilidad macroeconómica por la insostenible posición de las finanzas públicas en casi todas las economías avanzadas. Sólo puedo rechazar la idea de elevar permanentemente la inflación. No quiero ni imaginar las consecuencias que esto iba a provocar con las actuales fragilidades financieras y el entorno de elevada deuda pública, pues la gente de la calle podría perder su confianza en el poder adquisitivo del dinero.

Ninguna evidencia permite justificar que se puede mejorar la prosperidad económica o el crecimiento desviándose de la estabilidad de precios y apuntar hacia una inflación del 4%. Muy al contrario, nadie puede negar que la inflación tiene un impacto perjudicial.

El impuesto de la inflación no constituye una simple distorsión en los impuestos. Mas bien es lo que más exacerba las distorsiones en los impuestos que ya existen, contribuyendo a la dislocación de los recursos y a un incremento de las cargas impositivas, especialmente para las familias de menores ingresos. Finalmente deprime el crecimiento de la economía.

Es un hecho empírico irrefutable que las variaciones que la inflación produce en la economía aumentan con el nivel de inflación, que además incrementan las incertidumbres para las inversiones y los tipos de interés a largo plazo mediante el incremento de la prima de riesgo por inflación.

Un crecimiento permanente de la inflación acorta, en vez de estimular, el crecimiento económico a largo plazo. Existe abundante investigación empírica que demuestra cómo la Curva de Phillips tiene una curvatura negativa a largo plazo: la inflación y la volatilidad de la inflación penalizan la formación de capital, disminuyendo el potencial de crecimiento de la economía.

La evidencia empírica confirma esta relación negativa, pues cada 1% de permanente crecimiento de la inflación lleva asociado entre un 0,1 y un 0,3% de decrecimiento en la tendencia de crecimiento potencial. Así que, aplicado a la zona euro, ¡un objetivo de inflación del 4% cercenaría no menos de un 0,5% anual de la tendencia de crecimiento!

Usar la política monetaria para manejar los riesgos macroeconómicos podría introducir asimetrías bastante nocivas. Evita las restricciones políticas cuando los shocks positivos por el lado de la oferta reducen la inflación, alimentando las explosiones en el precio de los activos. Pero cuando este auge se desinfla, entonces los bancos centrales deben sobrereaccionar a los shocks negativos por el lado de la demanda. Así que la inestabilidad financiera tiene dos multiplicadores enormes. En primer lugar las respuestas monetarias cíclicas a los pinchazos de las expansiones en los buenos tiempos, y en segundo lugar el riesgo inducido [moral hazard] en los mercados financieros, porque se alimentan las expectativas de que los bancos centrales protegerán agresivamente a los mercados de los efectos que conduzcan a un riesgo sistémico [tail events] en los peores momentos. Estas expectativas animan a los mercados a asumir estrategias arriesgadas, sobre-exposiciones y exuberancias.

La política monetaria y el precio de los activos

Merece la pena mencionar el papel de los activos (1) en el comportamiento de la política monetaria. Una larga serie de auges y declives durante las últimas cuatro décadas ha demostrado que los desarrollos en los precios de los activos suponen serias amenazas para el entorno macroeconómico y la estabilidad de los precios, por lo que los bancos centrales no pueden permitirse el lujo de obviarlos. En este sentido, parece que una estrategia monetaria comprensiva que otorgue además preeminencia a los desarrollos monetarios y crediticios, tendría que trabajar “contra corriente” de la exuberancia financiera. Los bancos centrales tienen que estar equipados con una amplia estructura analítica para monitorizar y analizar en detalle estos desarrollos. En el BCE este enfoque está apuntalado por los analistas monetarios, que son el segundo pilar de nuestra estrategia de política monetaria.

La política fiscal

Según muchos comentaristas, la crisis financiera ha puesto a prueba la necesidad de volver a los estados para poder gestionar los desarrollos macroeconómicos. Por supuesto, y conjuntamente con el apoyo de la liquidez de los bancos centrales, la intervención discrecional de los gobiernos ha sido la clave para poder evitar que se repita una depresión del estilo de 1930. Pero estamos observando una deriva en los activos públicos que va a ser muy difícil de corregir con los estabilizadores habituales. En algunos países la deriva actual no tiene nada que ver con la crisis financiera. Hunde sus raíces en el hiper-activismo de la política que ya operaba con anterioridad a la crisis. Y esto a pesar de los peligros evidentes de una postura fiscal sobrereaccionada, algo que no puede decidirse e implementarse sin grandes retrasos.

En estos casos pueden ayudar las reglas fiscales como el Pacto de Estabilidad y Crecimiento de la UE. Si se les otorga suficiente autoridad, las reglas pueden provocar simetrías en los comportamientos.

Queda por ver cómo se van a deshacer y revertir las medidas fiscales discrecionales adoptadas en respuesta a la crisis para apoyar la sostenibilidad fiscal a largo plazo. De la misma forma que el BCE ha comenzado a restringir gradualmente sus medidas extraordinarias de apoyo mediante la liquidez, así también las autoridades fiscales deberían comenzar a retirar sus estímulos con tal de preservar la solvencia pública a medio plazo. Tenemos en Europa los mecanismos adecuados para apoyar esto. Los gobiernos tendrán que cumplirlos y, como enseña la experiencia, fortalecer además las reglas fiscales con tal de proteger el Pacto de Crecimiento y Estabilidad.

Observaciones finales. Algunas lecciones

En esta rápida revisión quiero dibujar dos lecciones sobre política monetaria.

La primera lección que debemos aprender es que los bancos centrales necesitan ampliar (no restringir) su visión de conjunto sobre la economía. Los datos monetarios son críticos para descubrir los riesgos que tardan más en aparecer en las prvisiones de inflación. Los analistas monetarios del BCE enviaron en su momento señales anticipadas de que se estaba menospreciando el riesgo cuando la inflación todavía estaba inactiva y las medidas para aminorarlo estaban siendo moderadas.

La segunda lección es que la estabilidad de los precios es la única ancla de amarre para la economía cuando llegan las turbulencias. No basta con garantizar la estabilidad financiera, es ciertamente necesario prevenir la inestabilidad financiera.

Incrementar el nivel de inflación en el objetivo de los bancos centrales sería caminar en la dirección equivocada. Nuestro encargo sobre la estabilidad de los precios no nos ha impedido responder con éxito y fortaleza al mayor shock desinflacionario que hemos experimentado en generaciones
. Con las tasas de inflación en la zona euro ligeramente por encima del 1% a corto y medio plazo, los riesgos de deflación continúan estando ausentes, y tiene que mantenerse la estabilidad de los precios. Y aún más importante, por supuesto, la estabilidad de los precios no ha comprometido la estabilidad macroeconómica.

29 marzo 2010

¿burbuja China?

Georges Soros habla de China: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tM2DzhDK1LU&feature=player_embedded y dice que los que están más preparados para regular la que se nos viene encima son gobiernos fuertes como EEUU y China.

Dudo mucho que tengan un burbuja todavía. Quizás dentro de 10 años eso sea cierto, pero hoy por hoy se dedican a urbanizar y modernizar el país. Y a llenarnos los demás de sus productos baratos. Desde Fidelity hablan de China y su burbuja:

China: Superpower by 2020?
By John Authers
Over the next few days, the Financial Times will be holding a series of “Great Debates” in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, asking whether China will be a superpower in 2020.
Viewed from New York, it seems a strange question. The investors in what is still the world’s biggest financial centre are acting on the assumption that China is already a superpower, if not a hyperpower. They have been doing so for some time. And perceptions are important: if people believe you are a superpower, they will let you behave like one.

The perception that China is a superpower is now deeply ingrained in US popular culture. Late-night comedy shows recycle jokes about the amount of money the US has borrowed from China. Conspiracy theories about the Chinese currency, which has been kept fixed against the dollar for almost two years now, and about Chinese foreign reserves are omnipresent. If China wanted, it could sell its Treasury bonds and crash the US economy, the theorists say - neglecting to mention that such actions would wreak deep damage on the Chinese economy as well.

It is plausible to view all the ebbs and flows of risk appetite of the past few years as emanating from China. A local bubble in Shanghai stocks accompanied the top of the global credit market, and it burst just before the world’s stocks peaked in October 2007. Almost a year later, the Chinese stock market was the first to turn and then lead the world’s markets out of their post-Lehman slump. With the Chinese authorities committed to aggressive new spending, and slashing the price of money, it appeared that at least one global economic superpower was able to respond to the crisis.

In the rally of 2009, countries and markets could almost be put on a continuum according to their exposure to China. Those who most benefited from Chinese growth, such as Latin American commodity exporters, or the countries on the Pacific Rim that export goods to China, have done best. Those in most direct competition with China have seen the least impressive rebounds.

World markets then ran out of steam and started to move sideways in the autumn, as China began, ever so slowly, to put on the brakes, with technical measures such as adjusting the reserves that banks were required to hold. This spoke to fears. The first was that China must at some point exit from easy money. This might be called the “business as usual” fear - traders never like the part of the business cycle when rates are rising.

The second, much greater fear is that China has created a bubble and is now trying to get that bubble to deflate gently. Few things are harder to do. But both in stock markets and real estate, at least when viewed from a distance, the risks seem real. Per capita spending on real estate has grown at 27 per cent a year during the past decade. Even when starting from a very low base, this sounds like a bubble.

The parallel with Japan 20 years ago is also discouraging. Then Japan, like China now, had an economic model that seemed unstoppable. It responded to the Black Monday market crash of 1987 with cheaper money - and suffered a market implosion a little more than two years later. All of this helps explain how Chinese fears helped halt the world stock rally in the autumn.

If there is an argument against China’s status as a market superpower, it comes from the past few months. Stocks in Shanghai headed downwards in the summer and continue to lag stocks in the US, which have returned to full robust optimism in the past few weeks. Greece, and not China, has been the focus of investors’ concerns during this year’s sell-off and subsequent recovery.

Does this mean that China no longer preoccupies investors? No. The latest numbers from China suggest neither an acceleration nor an imminent collapse, which is reassuring. Its huge trade surplus is narrowing. The authorities appear to be preparing to let the currency appreciate a little, which is just what many in the west want. Retail property sales have dropped a little in the past few months, while the relatively subdued performance of the stock market at least suggests once more that prices are staging a calm retreat from bubble-like conditions. In short, those worried about a bursting Chinese bubble had reason for more hope in the past few weeks. That is a factor in returning global optimism.

None of this means that the risk of a bursting Chinese bubble has gone away. It remains a possibility, and if it were to happen, there would be every reason to expect a return to crisis conditions across the world. But investors now think China might, somehow, be able to make a bubble deflate slowly. That remains to be tested, but the belief in the country’s economic superpower status remains firmly intact.

Y otro artículo más:

Lack of perception dogs transpacific relations

By John Authers

China and America, we all know, are closely intertwined. Their relationship is the central faultline of the world economy. They are mutually reliant. And yet it is governed by mutual incomprehension.

Until last week, when the Financial Times saw fit to whiz me through Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong for a series of debates on the country’s future international role, I had never set foot in mainland China. Such a whistlestop tour does not remotely qualify me to prognosticate on China’s grander questions.

But the experience did ram home just how deep the differences in perceptions are between what are now the world’s two most powerful countries. This could have profound implications for the world’s economy, and for investors.

While FT journalists were holding polite debates, an uglier transpacific dialogue was emerging between the Chinese leadership, which in effect told the US to mind its own business when it came to China’s currency, and US congressional politicians, who responded by upping pressure for their administration to declare China a currency manipulator. Such a move would pave the way for trade sanctions. Meanwhile, western investors grew ever more loudly convinced that China is in a bubble. All of these issues look different from China.

First, whatever the western perception, Chinese foreign policy is not aimed at crashing the American economy. Rather, it revolves around being left alone and around the extremely sore spot of Taiwan. Continued US weapons sales to the island, barely mentioned in the US, are seen as a deliberate and unnecessary provocation. This colours the Chinese debate on the currency.
Also, like most of us, China’s leadership dislikes being told what to do. Pressure from the US for an upward revaluation is good domestic politics but reduces the chances of such a revaluation happening. Without such pressure, an appreciation would come soon.

All of this is a problem because, while China wants merely to look after its interests at home, it is so big that it cannot do so without having big effects elsewhere. The vexed issue of the currency provides the classic example.

Is China in a bubble? Generally, this is met with laughter (by Chinese and western investors alike). The answer is two-fold. First, they say, of course there are bubbles in China. Second, it does not matter.

The Shanghai stock exchange is an inefficient market driven by retail investors, where the government maintains controlling stakes in the largest players. The critical points are that investments in Shanghai stocks are not bought with borrowed money, generally, and do not account for a large chunk of the economy. It can continue its boom and bust cycle without causing great collateral damage elsewhere.

As for property prices, nobody denies that there are bubbles in the big cities. But again, the argument is that these need not have big ripple effects on the broader economy. Much of the market is fuelled with cash, while mortgages have not been resold on capital markets. A fall in property prices could not, therefore, have the disastrous economic effects that the fall in US property prices had after 2006.

China’s banks will take it hard, many believe. That is a problem for the banks’ shareholders, including the government. But it need not necessarily be a problem for the broader economy.
As for last year’s drastic expansion of loans, which westerners fear will presage China’s own domestic credit crisis, many were in effect transfers between government agencies. Nobody seems to deny that the expansion was overdone. But the Chinese view is that the government has the tools to handle the problem and still keep the economy growing nicely.

For those wanting to take a bullish long-term view on Chinese growth, the Chinese stock market is probably not the best place to do it, at least if you are interested in investing passively in an index. The stock market is simply too inefficient, and its links with the real economy too tenuous, to make this a good strategy.

An inefficient market should instead create opportunities for active investors who look for bargains and who can do some real research on the ground.

Bulls on China might instead adopt the strategy of investing in the commodities that China will need to import from overseas. Alternatively, in the long term, looking in stabler stock markets for companies that export to China might make sense.

But bulls of all descriptions should note that the vitally important economic relationship between China and the US is plagued by misunderstandings. And, of course, the widespread confidence in China might yet prove misplaced. But the view from China, at any rate, is confident.


Te adjunto un gráfico donde se reflejan los precios de las principales ciudades en China. A excepción de Haikou, la Miami de China que acaba de estrenar un puente que une la isla y la costa firme y que presumiblemente ha servido para encarecer los precios inmobiliarios de la isla, y de Sanya que no tengo ni idea qué es. Las demás han experimentado una evolución de sus precios típica de un mercado flexible, nada parecido a los mercados europeos y mucho más similares a los anglosajones. En épocas boyantes, subían y en contractivas bajaban. Pero no parece que en los últimos 3 años la subida haya sido excesiva, para la cantidad de casas que se siguen construyendo y para esa necesidad perentoria de crear nuevos hogares que existe en el país dado el incremento de gente viviendo en ciudades fruto de una migración masiva desde las zonas rurales, buscando trabajo.

The Mindblowing Bubble In The "Miami Of China"
Miami was one of the ground zeroes of the US property bubble, and it seems that the Miami of China -- Haikou -- is experiencing the same. As you can see here, it's got a nice southern orientation and tropical climate. So it's no wonder that home prices -- in this chart from Waverly Advisors -- there are going parabolic even by China standards.

PD1: Otros datos de inmuebles en occidente:
Global House Prices May Have Further to Fall, but U.S. Looking Better

House prices across the globe still have room to fall, but the U.S. may be in better shape than other developed nations, according to an International Monetary Fund research article.

In the article, Prakash Loungani notes that house prices in major economies declined an average of about 5% in inflation-adjusted terms from 2007 through 2009. But he looks at some key metrics to determine if the global correction has ended.

One measure is how much house prices have risen compared to rents, and another shows how much they jumped compared to incomes. In many countries those ratios are still far above long-term averages. Based on this and other data, Loungani concludes: “house prices in many countries still have room to fall.”

But the U.S. is hardly in the worst position in the developed world. In fact, it looks to be in pretty good shape. Compared to rents, houses aren’t too far from the average of the pre-boom years. Canada, Sweden and Spain are in much worse positions. Meanwhile the ratio of house prices to incomes is actually below the 1970-2000 average.

To be sure, housing, like politics, is all local. The U.S. has seen some bubble areas hit much harder than the rest of the country, which affects the average. The massive discounts on condos in Florida could be offsetting still expensive houses elsewhere in the country.

There’s also no guarantee that just because houses are running closer to the long-run averages that they will stay there. Germany and Japan have ratios far below the mean for 1970-2000, and they didn’t experience the bubbles that other countries saw in the 2000s.

PD2: Desde China viene todo lo barato ya que cuentan con una mano de obra muy barata allí. Y son muy competitivos y van a por todas. Trabajan como mulas. Hoy les toca perder negocio a los molinos de viento:

Las empresas chinas quitan mercado a Gamesa y Acciona
Gamesa y Acciona han perdido cuota de mercado en el negocio de aerogeneradores durante 2009, debido al empuje de las compañías chinas, según el informe de la consultora danesa Make Consulting. Así, Gamesa ocupa el séptimo puesto de ranking, con una cuota de mercado del 6% frente al 11% que tenía en 2008, mientras que Acciona baja al puesto 15, el último de la clasificación. Vestas, que redujo su cuota al 14,5% desde el 20% anterior, ocupa el primer lugar, seguida por GE. Según, Make Consulting, China cuenta con dos “jugadores” entre los cinco primeros y con cinco entre las 10 compañías con mayor cuota de mercado. “Con una capacidad total instalada de 3.495 y 2.722 MW solo en China, Sinovel y Goldwind se sitúan ahora como la tercera y quinta del ranking, respectivamente”.

PD3: Si quieres ver el espíritu emprendedor chino, este es el mejor ejemplo:

, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ5n8yI48-c&feature=related Es una sociedad muy parecida a la americana. Están deseando emprender y comerse el mundo.

PD4: Los americanos están hartos de la invasión china. Por eso no hacen más que decir insidias contra el país oriental y hablar de burbujas… Es un problema económico entre ambos, con un ganador y un perdedor. Si hubiera medidas proteccionistas, todos sabemos quien perdería, los americanos otra vez.

26 marzo 2010

globalización de las inversiones

En este mundo globalizado, invertimos generalmente en casa y consumimos productos de otros países (sobre todo en España, país de servicios donde apenas producimos nada apetecible) Esto genera problemas y riesgos. Con la actual crisis y las perspectivas de crecimiento futuras, sabiendo lo largo que se espera dure la crisis, es recomendable preservar el capital invirtiendo fuera en donde haya más crecimiento económico y menos problemas financieros (déficit y deuda pública).

En el siguiente cuadro podemos ver la importancia del mercado de valores americano que con 14 trillones de dólares representa una buena parte de la capitalización mundial. La razón hay que buscarla en el espíritu emprendedor de los estadounidenses y lo enormemente desarrollado de su mercado de valores donde miles de empresas salen a buscar financiación. Es un país de empresarios, de self made men, de gente triunfadora que arriesga, constituye una empresa y cuando necesita financiación o venderla la saca a bolsa. EEUU es un país rico, con una renta per capita de 45.000 dólares anuales de media, y cientos de miles de millonarios.

Japón aguanta, aunque China ya le ha superado si sumamos la parte de Shangai con la de Hong Kong. Interesante ver quién tenemos ya por delante de España: Taiwán, Corea…hace poco emergentes y ya plenamente desarrollados y compitiendo en producto y capitalización bursátil. Y eso que nuestras macro empresas multinacionales son muy grandes (SAN, BBVA, TEF, REP) y representan más de la mitad del mercado.

En el siguiente cuadro podemos ver lo que representa cada país por capitalización, pero sobre todo es interesante la columna de la derecha: evolución desde 2004 de los mercados. Lideran las subidas los emergentes de nuevo, ya lo sabíamos. Y los países occidentales a pesar de la buena subida que se produce desde 2004 hasta 2007, no es suficiente y siguen en pérdidas:

Dicen que todas las bolsas se mueven por igual. Eso es una apariencia falsa. A la larga, cada mercado va marcando su camino. Y no hay tanta correlación como parece, sino todo lo contrario. Lo que va bien, sube. Lo que va mal, baja. Donde hay buenas perspectivas, se refleja en los precios y viceversa.

Concluyo: hay que apostar por los mercados emergentes de cara al futuro, para los próximos 5/10 años. Un abrazo

PD1: Indignado estoy con ZP. Los 2.000 millones de euros de préstamo a Grecia no los volvemos a ver. Es mucha cantidad para la pobre España. Seguimos fardando de nuevos ricos. Con la necesidad que hay ahora mismo internamente. Que le pregunte a la gente su opinión. La pasta que cuesta las políticas de imagen. Pobres de mis hijos, otro cacho que deben.

PD2: Ya sabes mi opinión de las economías que están mal y las que están bien. Donde más déficit público se soporta, pues peor: Todas las que tienen una previsión de más de un 10% de déficit este año, no me gustan, es decir: ESPAÑA, REINO UNIDO, IRLANDA, JAPON y EEUU. Si podemos elegir, prefiero los que no tienen déficit. Y esas existen aunque parezca mentira.

PD3: Ya tiene un competidor Botín. Un banco que gana más de 14.100 millones de euros (más de 2 billones de las antiguas pesetas), de forma recurrente, sabiendo que este próximo año va a volver a repetir y el siguiente también y sucesivamente. Y no tiene problema para pagar su dividendo ya que no tiene mora inmobiliaria. Ni piensa recortar el dividendo. Menuda envidia deben tener por Cantabria.

Banco chino ICBC ganó 14.100 millones en 2009
La entidad china Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), el mayor banco del mundo por capitalización bursátil, obtuvo en 2009 un beneficio neto de 128.645 millones de yuanes (14.100 millones de euros), un 16% más en comparación con los 110.841 millones de yuanes (12.151 millones de euros) que ganó en 2008, según informó hoy la compañía en un comunicado. La cifra de negocio del banco chino alcanzó en 2009 los 245.821 millones de yuanes (26.953 millones de euros), lo que supone un 6,5% menos en relación a los 263.037 millones de yuanes (28.836 millones de euros) que ingresó en el ejercicio anterior. (Invertia)

Por cierto, en este banco nosotros tenemos inversiones, una buena parte, a través del Parvest China (tiene invertido un 6,95% de su cartera en este banco, el mayor del mundo y sin los problemas de los occidentales). A ver si te voy poniendo las cuentas de las empresas donde invertimos para que las vayas conociendo mejor.

25 marzo 2010

más que económico, tenemos un problema cultural y de educación

Se han perdido los valores o quizás nunca los llegáramos a tener. En términos generales no somos laboriosos ni tenemos desarrollado el espíritu de sacrificio. Los españoles somos graciosos, juerguistas y vagos. La educación en las últimas décadas deja mucho que desear. Somos creativos, pero sólo para un rato. Hemos cultivado hasta la saciedad el dinero fácil, la especulación, el pelotazo, la cultura de aquí te pillo aquí te mato.

Perdimos la capacidad de esfuerzo de nuestros padres, su espíritu de sacrificio, su espíritu emprendedor. Ahora queremos ser todos funcionarios o empleados de multinacional, pero sin que nos echen nunca, como a nuestros mayores. Y con esto no quiere decir que los otros tiempos fueran mejores. Siempre es mejor lo que nos viene por delante, lo que uno hace para el bien común.

Hemos perdido la Fe de nuestros mayores. Nos hemos montado una religión y un Dios a nuestra conveniencia, según nuestro gusto. Esto me apetece, lo hago. Esto cuesta, paso olímpicamente. Hemos creado una infancia egoísta que malcriamos. Los niños esclavizan a los padres que se mueven al antojo de los primeros. Tenemos una adolescencia que da miedo. Y una sociedad que se conforma con ganar mil euros para sobrevivir con sus caprichos, viajes, antojos…

Se ha vivido muchos años en la abundancia material y nos ha cegado el brillo del dinero. Había para comprarnos lo que quisiéramos, para el viaje más largo y ridículo del mundo, para la filosofía del tener y no la del ser.

Siempre queda un rayo de esperanza. No debemos esperar a que otros nos lo vayan a arreglar. Hay que arrimar el hombro y volver a dejarse lo que hay que dejarse para salir victoriosos del difícil empeño que tenemos por delante. Hay que tratar de educar a nuestros hijos en los valores que a nosotros nos enseñaron nuestros padres: la recompensa del esfuerzo, el trabajo bien hecho, tener ideales grandes, pero hacer muy bien las cosas pequeñas. La amistad y el trabajo. Hay que trabajar más y cobrar menos. Para salir de esta crisis hay que quitarse las viejas costumbres de atrás. Tiempo nuevo, hábitos nuevos, sino iremos de cráneo.

En un intento de hacerte llegar la máxima información posible para que puedas tomar tus propias decisiones, te copio un artículo que encuentro en la red de un alemán que no tiene desperdicio. Hace hincapié en el problema económico/cultural español y la falta de viabilidad futura. Son sus palabras:

“A la hora de analizar la crisis económica española actual es decepcionante el ver la forma en la que el Gobierno ha tratado de combatirla en los últimos meses. Durante este tiempo lo que más se ha podido leer en los periódicos día a día, es que empresas de todas las ramas económicas han cerrado por quiebra y despedido a sus trabajadores. Así, el tejido industrial español desaparece igual que ha ocurrido en Grecia en los últimos años.

Las declaraciones actuales del Gobierno español: "la salida de la crisis está a la vuelta de la esquina, y ahora van a trabajar todos otra vez como antes", son ilusorias. ¿Dónde va a trabaja la gente si las empresas han cerrado? Y lo más triste de todo es que posiblemente nuevas empresas aún tarden mucho tiempo en volver a abrir.

En vez de tratar de frenar la destrucción de empleo industrial con las medidas aplicadas por ejemplo en Alemania, el año pasado las Administraciones Públicas españolas trataron de frenar el desempleo aumentando el número de funcionarios. A nadie se le ocurrió pensar, que a esos empleados hay que pagarlos. Para ello Gobierno incluso aumentó la capacidad de endeudamiento de las Administraciones Públicas regionales y locales. Todo eso antes de que empezasen los problemas de la deuda griega (y española). Ahora se dan cuenta de que esa economía no es sostenible.

Observada desde el exterior, la política del Gobierno socialista español no produce sino asombro y desconcierto. Asombro porque aún parecen dominar conceptos económicos del siglo XIX. La lucha de clases. Los empresarios contra los obreros y empleados. En los nuevos libros de texto para niños se les enseña que el empresario es el enemigo a combatir que oprime a sus obreros. La realidad, sin embargo, es que en el siglo XXI rigen otras leyes. Si las empresas españolas son competitivas a nivel internacional, podrán producir en España y crear trabajo y riqueza. Y si no lo son, desaparecerán y la producción tendrá lugar en otras partes del planeta como China o Alemania. Y los trabajadores españoles se irán al paro. Así de fácil es un mundo globalizado.

Analizado en detalle, el problema económico español no es sino un problema cultural, cuya solución pasa por preguntarse: ¿qué es y cómo se genera justicia social? En Alemania, por ejemplo, se habla muy a menudo de este tema. Y el consenso unánime existente es: Una medida política o económica es socialmente justa si ayuda a crear empleo. Diferencias salariales de cualquier tipo no son nunca tan injustas socialmente como el hecho de que unos tengan trabajo y puedan trabajar y otros no lo tengan. En España, por desgracia, las fuerzas políticas y sociales aún parecen no haber comprendido esto. Así, a la hora de analizar en qué medida los sindicatos y sus reivindicaciones aspiran a crear una mayor justicia social para todos no se debe olvidar, que estos no son sino un grupo de lobby, que defiende los intereses del grupo social que representa: el de todos o una parte de los trabajadores ocupados. En este contexto, habitualmente se olvida mencionar, que ese grupo social está lejos de alcanzar la mitad de la población del país. ¿Y quién defiende los intereses del resto de la población (más de la mitad)? Y mucho peor aún: Si para mantener el nivel de vida de la población ocupada actual hay que recurrir a emitir deuda (en 2009 el 12% del PIB), ¿quién defiende los intereses de nuestros hijos y nietos que tendrán que trabajar para devolver esa deuda? ¿Hay algo socialmente más injusto que esto?

Otros países como Alemania, por ejemplo, también tienen déficit y emiten deuda. Porque las subvenciones para la creación de empresas y a la industria en todos los sectores son muy elevadas. En España, sin embargo, el déficit generado por las medidas anticrisis en el año 2009 se destinó básicamente a un programa de infraestructuras dedicado a renovar fuentes y hacer zanjas. El dinero se gastó sin generar ninguna clase de riqueza futura y la gente está de nuevo al paro. ¿Se puede hablar aquí de una política económica con objetivos claros y de futuro? Seguramente no. Así, la nota característica de la política económica española actual es que no tiene objetivos definidos, no tiene rumbo.

Por eso es tan importante buscar el Norte. Tomar medidas que fomenten la justicia social. Que creen empleo. Si la destrucción del tejido industrial español continúa al ritmo de los años 2008-2009, ¿cuánto tiempo tardará la juventud de este país en movilizarse ante la falta de perspectivas de trabajo, como ocurrió en Grecia el año pasado?

Sin embargo, buscar medidas que creen empleo sostenible a largo plazo no es fácil. La dificultad radica en que ya no vivimos en el siglo XIX, sino en el siglo XXI, en un mundo altamente globalizado. Empleo sostenible que sea socialmente justo, es decir, que no sean funcionarios cuyos sueldos se pagan emitiendo deuda pública que van a tener que devolver generaciones futuras, sólo se crea con empresas competitivas a nivel internacional. Y para que estas existan se necesitan trabajadores con alta formación, con capacidad de iniciativa, motivación e innovación. Con conocimiento de idiomas y culturas extranjeras para poder vender esos productos en otros mercados. Un pequeño ejemplo: Una regla no escrita de la sociedad coreana desde los años 60 y 70, es que todos los jóvenes del país debían de viajar o estudiar algún tiempo en Estados Unidos o Europa. ¿Y ahora curiosamente uno podría preguntarse, por qué tantos productos coreanos (por cierto, un país hasta hace poco aún en vías de desarrollo) tienen tanto éxito en los mercados occidentales (Hyundai / Kia, Samsung, LG, etc.)? ¿Exporta España algo a Corea?

El problema económico español es un problema cultural porque faltan programas culturales (en radio y televisión) y redes sociales que fomenten la tecnología, la innovación, la toma de riesgo y la creación de empresas que den trabajo a la población con menor formación. En vez de fomentar una cultura de innovación y empresa, la sociedad española busca una notoria evasión de los problemas reales en el fútbol y en aspiraciones separatistas. Los políticos regionales de toda España parecen pensar solamente en alzarse a su propio altar y no se dan cuenta, de que para crear empresas competitivas en mercados internacionales, que creen riqueza y trabajo para su propia región, el tiempo dedicado a aprender la lengua regional estaría mucho mejor empleado si se dedicase a aprender o perfeccionar lenguas extranjeras: inglés, alemán, etc. Por desgracia, somos humanos y la capacidad de aprendizaje es limitada. Por desgracia, el saber sí ocupa lugar. Ejemplos del poco éxito económico de ese regionalismo cultural hay muchos: SEAT, sin ir más lejos. El prestigio industrial catalán. Pero sin éxito internacional. Cualquiera que haya seguido la presentación de resultados del grupo Volkswagen en Alemania este año y los comentarios de prensa a este respecto puede imaginarse, que dentro de 5 años SEAT posiblemente ya no exista. En el grupo Volkswagen todos se preguntan cuál es la mejor forma de librarse de una empresa sin perspectivas y capacidad de innovación. En vez de crecer en otros mercados, crear riqueza y puestos de trabajo, la empresa se liquida y los trabajadores se van al paro. ¿No será que por tanto fomentar la cultura regional nos olvidamos de que el éxito económico en un mundo globalizado se obtiene en los mercados internacionales?

Otro ejemplo de los absurdos resultados económicos que genera el regionalismo español es el caso Endesa: con motivo de la creciente sensibilización social con el cambio climático, el mayor consumo energético de una sociedad cada vez más industrializada y el encarecimiento de los recursos energéticos fósiles como el petróleo, el sector energético va a ser uno de los sectores estratégicos y con mayor capacidad de crecimiento en los próximos años. Tanto más importante hubiera sido para España el mantener el control y la capacidad de decisión de Endesa, acerca de dónde se creará la riqueza y los puestos de trabajo en el futuro. Pero ya se sabe: cuando dos se pelean, ganancia para un tercero.

Ante este problema cultural, el panorama económico español para los próximos años es bastante sombrío. Pero no sin solución. Es una cuestión de voluntad política. De identificar los problemas y definir el rumbo. De consenso social. Hay que preguntarse, ¿qué queremos? ¿Queremos mayor justicia social, generar riqueza, crear empleo y vivir mejor de forma sostenible? ¿O nos conformamos con mantener el nivel de vida adquirido emitiendo más deuda y ver cuanto tiempo esto marcha bien, hasta que los mercados internacionales degraden la deuda española a nivel de bono-basu-ra? Para solucionar el problema cultural, sin embargo, se necesita una clase política comprometida a todos los niveles, central y regional, y un Gobierno con una visión clara y una mayoría suficiente para llevar a cabo las reformas económicas y sociales necesarias. Un Gobierno que fomente la formación humana, la tecnología, la toma de riesgo, la creación de empresas. Un Gobierno que comprenda los retos del siglo XXI y no siga aferrado a conceptos económicos del siglo XIX.”

Cuánta razón tiene este alemán. Y qué alemán es. Un abrazo,

24 marzo 2010


En EUROPA: Suecia es la que soporta unos números peores con 8 habitantes por cada funcionario. Alemania tiene 18. Y los países del Este son los que parten de una posición mejor. Tienen menos estado del bienestar. España está llena de funcionarios, aunque Francia está aún peor.

En EEUU: Han tenido subidas en los últimos años. Mientras el paro subía, también lo hacían los funcionarios. Pero su economía es mucho más flexible y soportan un menor número de personas a las que hay que pagar un sueldo por su función pública.

1.The number of federal employees exceeded 2.8 million for the first time in January 2009, and federal jobs have increased by 82,000 employees since December 2008.
2. Average federal salaries exceed average private-sector pay in more than eight out of 10 occupations of comparable occupations. From USA Today, a sampling of average annual salaries in 2008 are displayed below, the most recent data:

3. Also from USA Today, the typical federal worker is paid $11,091 more per year (20% higher salary) than private-sector workers in the same occupation, based on median annual salaries.
Federal Employees: $66,591
Private-Sector Employees: $55,5004. According to USA Today, average annual benefits (health, pension, etc.) in 2008 for federal employees was more than 4 times greater than benefits for private workers, a difference of almost $31,000 per year:Federal employees: $40,875Private sector worker: $9,882
Other key findings from USA Today:

• Federal. The federal pay premium cut across all job categories — white-collar, blue-collar, management, professional, technical and low-skill. In all, 180 jobs paid better average salaries in the federal government (83%); 36 paid better in the private sector (17%).

•Private. The private sector paid more on average in a select group of high-skill occupations, including lawyers, veterinarians and airline pilots. The government's 5,200 computer research scientists made an average of $95,190, about $10,000 less than the average in the corporate world.

•State and local. State government employees had an average salary of $47,231 in 2008, about 5% less than comparable jobs in the private sector. City and county workers earned an average of $43,589, about 2% more than private workers in similar jobs. State and local workers have higher total compensation than private workers when the value of benefits is included.

Este es nuestro gran problema. No podemos quitarnos peso en momentos de crisis en el sector público, entre los ciudadanos que trabajan para los demás. Cuando se decida abordar una reducción del Estado del Bienestar, habrá que echar muchas horas viendo como reducir la importancia de estos costes. Un abrazo

PD1: En el Telediario de ayer por la noche pusieron el ejemplo de Jerez. Mítico pueblo andaluz de 200.000 habitantes donde la recaudación por tributos locales y tasas es de 80 millones de euros y sólo la nómina de sueldos y salarios es de 100 millones de euros. No tienen para gastar en nada. Lo que gastan de más es puro déficit que luego se convierte en deuda pública. Es una situación de quiebra total, salvo que eches a un montón de empleados públicos a la calle, si puedes. ¿Cuántos pueblos y comunidades están en situación parecida? Me temo que un montón. Habrá que hacer algo para solucionar este despropósito. Fueron otros años en donde se contrataba a mucha gente para tenerlo todo como los chorros del loro. Ahora que ya no se cobra nada del mercado inmobiliario. Hay que cambiar las prioridades. Suma y sigue a las terribles cifras del desempleo. Al final no pienses que mejoran las cuentas. Da casi igual pagar a estos empleados públicos que sobran un sueldo que darles el INEM o los 420 euros de ZP.

PD2: Mal empezamos el año: En 2010, están peor las cuentas públicas que en 2009:

El superávit del Estado se reduce en casi 1.800 millones de euros en un año y se sitúa en 3.277 millones

El Estado registró un superávit de 3.277 millones de euros hasta el mes de febrero, el 0,31% del PIB, frente al saldo positivo de 5.070 millones registrado en el mismo periodo de 2009, según los datos avanzados por el secretario de Estado de Hacienda, Carlos Ocaña, en la Comisión de Hacienda y Presupuestos en el Congreso.

Los gastos hasta febrero ascendieron a 24.242 millones de euros (un 5,3% más que en el mismo periodo de 2009) y los ingresos fueron de 27.519 millones (el 2% menos).

En términos de caja -que computa los ingresos y pagos cuando se efectúan, y no cuando se comprometen, como hace la contabilidad nacional-, el Estado registró hasta febrero un déficit de 7.759 millones, superior al saldo negativo de 70 millones del mismo periodo del año anterior.

Sin embargo, Ocaña insistió en que estas cifras hay que analizarlas teniendo en cuenta que los dos primeros meses del año no son representativos, ya que, hasta el momento, el gasto no ha empezado prácticamente a ejecutarse en el Presupuesto y gran parte de los pagos se derivan del año anterior.

"Habrá que esperar unos meses más para sacar conclusiones", señaló Ocaña, quien aseguró además que los datos de febrero no suponen "ninguna sorpresa" y resaltó la importancia de orientar ahora la política fiscal a la reducción del déficit público, que ascendió a 117.630 millones en 2009, el 11,19% del PIB.

Hasta febrero, la recaudación neta ascendió a 35.479 millones de euros, un 7,1% menos. Los ingresos impositivos, que representan el 95% del total, descendieron un 3,6% debido, sobre todo, al incremento del 45,3% de las devoluciones