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Crazy times and calm markets make odd bedfellows

来源:FT中文网    2017-05-15 06:51

        Two peculiar things happened in America this week. One of these made headlines:        上周美国发生了两件怪事。其中之一上了头条新闻:
        Donald Trump sacked James Comey as head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, just as the agency intensified investigations into the president’s dealings with Russia. It has plunged Washington into a political drama which, at best, could create months of distraction and, at worst, spark a Nixon-style crisis.        就在联邦调查局(FBI)加紧调查唐纳德•特朗普(Donald Trump)与俄罗斯的交易之际,这位美国总统解雇了FBI局长詹姆斯•科米(James Comey)。此事在华盛顿掀起一场政治大戏,最好的情况是可能造成几个月的混乱,最坏情况是触发一场尼克松式的危机。
        The second peculiar event, however, was less noticed: the so-called Vix index of volatility for American stocks sank below 10, to the lowest level seen since 1993, before slightly rebounding.        第二件怪事注意到的人就比较少了:美国股市的所谓Vix波动指数降至10以下——为1993年以来最低点——稍后略有反弹。
        Yes, you read that correctly. What the Vix now implies is that the outlook for the US economy and markets is more stable and benign than anything seen for 24 years — irrespective of missile threats from North Korea, dangers of China’s debt bubble, uncertainty around European populism — and this week’s speculation about Mr Trump.        是的,你没看错。Vix指数当前水平暗含的意思是,投资者认为美国经济和市场的前景比24年来任何情况下都更稳定、更有利,尽管当前面临朝鲜的导弹威胁、中国债务泡沫的危险和围绕欧洲民粹主义的不确定性,以及近日人们对特朗普的猜测。
        And while the Vix index is not a perfect barometer, since it can be distorted by opaque trades, what is equally striking is that other market indicators also signal calm. US equity prices are high and have not budged in response to these dramas. Credit markets are frothy. Indeed, confidence in future stability seems so high that Bridgewater, the hedge fund, is telling clients it is seeing an explosion in the “carry trade”, or a situation where investors borrow cheaply to invest in riskier assets.        尽管由于可能受到不透明交易的扭曲,Vix指标不是一个完美的风向标,但同样令人吃惊的是,其他市场指标也预示着平静。美国股市处于高点,并未随着政治大戏上演而变动。信贷市场泛起了泡沫。实际上,人们对于未来稳定性的信心是如此之高,乃至对冲基金桥水(Bridgewater)告诉客户称,眼下“套息交易”火爆,也就是说,投资者纷纷借入较廉价的资金,投向风险更高的资产。
        How to explain this juxtaposition? One, cynical, explanation might be that investors, unlike journalists, simply don’t care about politics. The US economy has been expanding for eight years and groups such as the International Monetary Fund predict healthy global growth this year. And though the Federal Reserve is tightening, the Bank of Japan and European Central Bank are still injecting huge liquidity into the market. This, rather than any Trump reform agenda, keeps supporting asset prices; or so the argument goes.        如何解释这种市场与政治分隔的状况?一种轻率的解释或许是,跟新闻记者不同,投资者根本不关心政治。美国经济已持续增长了8年,国际货币基金组织(IMF)等机构预测称,今年全球经济会实现健康增长。而且,尽管美联储(Fed)在收紧政策,日本银行(BoJ)和欧洲央行(ECB)仍在向市场注入巨额流动性。正是这些、而不是特朗普的任何改革议程,一直支撑着资产价格;观点大抵如此。
        A second explanation, however, is that politics does matter but investors think that the present political administration has two faces. One of these faces is dominated by the president as reality-television star, who grabbed the headlines this week by telling Mr Comey in effect, “You’re Fired!”, and subsequently embarked on a Twitter rage against his opponents.        然而,第二种解释是,政治确实重要,但投资者认为当前政治当局有两张面孔。一张面孔来自当过电视真人秀明星的总统。近日特朗普上了新闻头条,他实际上告诉科米“你被炒鱿鱼了!”,然后到推特上抨击对手们。
        The second face is the sensible part of his senior team, which includes respected figures such as Rex Tillerson, Lieutenant General HR McMaster and General James Mattis (on the foreign policy side) and Gary Cohn, Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross (on economic policy). These men appear to embrace a sober foreign policy stance and Reagan-style agenda of tax cuts, infrastructure plans and deregulation. It is the latter that has investors excited, since they think the “sensible” face will outlive the crazy dramas.        第二张面孔是他的高级团队中的理性成员,外交政策方面有雷克斯•蒂勒森(Rex Tillerson)、陆军中将赫伯特•雷蒙德•麦克马斯特(HR McMaster)和詹姆斯•马蒂斯(James Mattis)将军,经济政策方面有加里•科恩(Gary Cohn)、史蒂文•姆努钦(Steven Mnuchin)和威尔伯•罗斯(Wilbur Ross),都是受人尊敬的人物。这些人看来采取了一种冷静理性的外交政策立场,以及里根式的减税、基建和放松监管议程。正是后一方面让投资者感到兴奋,因为他们认为,疯狂闹剧收场后,这副“理性的”面孔还会继续存在。
        Investors know that there is also a danger that Mr Trump’s Russia scandals prove so distracting that Congress never gets a chance to discuss tax reform or healthcare. But optimists around the White House insist that work on the reform agenda is proceeding apace; some believe that the scandals might make congressional Republicans more — not less — determined to pass some economic reform bills; after all, they will need some good news to campaign on in the next midterm elections.        投资者知道,还有一个危险是,特朗普的通俄丑闻会让人分心,以致国会根本没有机会讨论税改或医保方案。但接近白宫的乐观者坚称,有关改革议程的工作正在向前推进;有些人认为,丑闻也许会让国会中的共和党议员更坚定地(而不是相反)通过一些经济改革法案;毕竟,在下一次中期选举中,他们需要一些好消息来为自己宣传。
        There is, however, a third, more alarming, way to interpret the Vix: investors are dangerously complacent about (geo) political risks. More specifically, one way to frame the situation is that markets have stealthily slipped into a “normalisation of deviance” pattern, to use the phrase coined by sociologist Diane Vaughan: so many political boundaries and precedents have been broken that investors have lost perspective on events, because the bizarre seems almost normal.        然而,对于Vix指数当前水平还有第三种、也更令人担忧的解读:投资者对(地缘)政治风险满不在乎,这是很危险的。更具体讲,对当前形势的一种解读是,市场已悄悄地落入了一种“异常现象正常化”模式,这是社会学家黛安•沃恩(Diane Vaughan)创造的词语。在这种模式下,太多政治边界和先例被打破,以致投资者看不透局势,因为奇怪行为几乎成了正常的事情。
        After all, Mr Comey’s removal is no usual political blood-letting: it overturns the time-honoured principle that presidents do not fire the people investigating them, or attack independent bodies. If this is undermined, America’s political economy looks more like an emerging market than western democracy: rule of law is supposed to be a bedrock of America’s political culture (and its capital markets).        毕竟,科米被炒不是一般的政治杀戮:它会推翻一项由来已久的原则,即总统不会解雇正在调查自己的人,也不会攻击独立机构。如果这条原则被颠覆,美国的政治经济看起来会更像一个新兴市场、而不是西方民主国家:法治被认为是美国政治文化(以及美国资本市场)的一块基石。
        Most senior Republicans would dismiss this interpretation of events as alarmist. I still think that there is a reasonable chance that the antics of Trump-the-Reality-Television-President will be reined in by the judiciary and more sensible aides. But the longer the Vix stays low, the more peculiar the juxtaposition between markets and politics seems to be; and, of course, the greater the risk of a future snapback.        大多数资深共和党人会认为这种解读危言耸听。我仍认为,这位电视真人秀明星总统的怪异举止很有可能将受到司法部门和理性助手们的牵制。但是,Vix指数维持低位的时间越长,市场与政治之间的这种分隔就会显得越古怪;当然,未来形势迅速转向的风险也就越大。

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