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Not quite so safe (From The Economists) 并非如此安全

Economics focus

Not quite so SAFE

Apr 23rd 2009
From The Economist print edition

Is China souring on the dollar?

CHINA is America’s largest creditor. Thanks to a policy of piling up foreign-exchange reserves and investing most of them in dollar assets, China’s government bought around one quarter of the net increase in Treasuries over the past two years. But just as Washington needs to sell record amounts of debt to fund its soaring budget deficit and to bail out its banks, there are signs that Beijing’s appetite for American debt may be shrinking.

According to official figures, China’s reserves fell in January and February. Taking the first quarter as a whole they rose by just $8 billion, compared with $154 billion a year earlier. Chinese officials have voiced pointed public worries about the effect of America’s massive fiscal and monetary expansion on the value of China’s dollar holdings. In a high-profile essay, Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), recently floated the idea of a global reserve currency. The combination of falling reserves and rising rhetoric has fuelled fears that China is turning its back on the greenback.

Follow the money

Assessing that risk means answering two basic questions. Is China buying fewer foreign assets? And is it diversifying away from the dollar? Few have delved deeper into the murky world of China’s capital flows than Brad Setser of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and his analysis suggests a more complex picture than official statistics portray.

According to the official figures, China’s foreign reserves are $1.95 trillion. But Mr Setser reckons that the true figure is around $2.3 trillion if hidden reserves are included, such as those of the China Investment Corporation (CIC), the country’s sovereign-wealth fund, and the “other foreign assets” of the PBOC. Taking this wider measure of foreign-exchange reserves, and then adjusting for changes in the value of non-dollar reserves caused by swings in the dollar, Mr Setser reckons that China’s total reserves rose by around $40 billion in the first quarter, only one-fifth of their increase in the first quarter of 2008. On the face of it, this represents a big drop in China’s demand for foreign assets.

But official reserves are not the only potential source of Chinese demand for dollars. To see why, look at the country’s balance of payments. China’s current-account surplus is bigger than it was a year ago. That surplus along with a dollop of foreign direct investment gave China a net inflow of foreign exchange of well over $100 billion in the first quarter. If reserves rose by only $40 billion, then something else must account for the other $60 billion. Despite its strict capital controls, China is experiencing a large outflow of speculative private capital, or “hot money” (see top chart, below), largely that of Chinese investors. Just as such “hot money” inflows last year drove China’s reserves up by more than the current-account surplus, so the outflows have now dampened reserve accumulation. But as long as China runs a large current-account surplus, it must, by definition be accumulating foreign assets. What seems to have changed, of late, is who is buying them. The “hot money” leaving China might still buy American Treasuries, or it could buy something else.

What of the idea that China’s government has diversified into other currencies? Here, too, the statistics are hard to make sense of. The State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), which manages the country’s reserves, does not disclose such details. America’s Treasury reports on foreigners’ investments in American securities, but these figures may understate China’s stash because China buys some dollar assets though non-American intermediaries. For instance Mr Setser and his colleague, Arpana Pandy, estimate that since mid-2006, China has accounted for around 30% of purchases of American Treasuries though London. If these flows are added in to Washington’s figures, China has about $1.5 trillion invested in dollar assets, of which about half are in Treasuries. This is about 70% of China’s total reserves. While that is down from over 80% in 2002, the drop largely reflects the weaker dollar, not a shift into other currencies.

SAFE has spent much of the past few years diversifying the types of dollar assets it holds. During 2007 it bought government-agency debt, ie, that of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, rather than Treasuries. In 2007 and 2008 it started to buy equities, just before the market tumbled. In the year to June 2008, China’s holdings of American shares more than tripled to $100 billion. Before the financial markets collapsed last year, SAFE may have had over 15% of its portfolio in equities and corporate bonds, which is high for an official body—and has left it with huge unrealised losses. It is widely thought that SAFE does not mark to market, so official reserve figures conceal the hit. But it is sure to dwarf the more publicised losses from CIC’s investments in Blackstone, a financial firm, and Morgan Stanley, an investment bank.

By many standards China’s reserve portfolio has held up well during the crisis, because most of its reserves are still in long-term bonds which rose in price as interest rates fell; and the dollar so far has been strong. But embarrassing losses on riskier assets have led to a sharp shift in behaviour. Since mid 2008 SAFE has sold government-agency debt and corporate bonds. Its purchases of Treasury bonds have surged (see bottom chart) but of late they have been almost exclusively short-term bills. According to Mr Setser’s figures, over the past three months China’s American assets showed no growth for the first time in many years—despite the modest increase in reserves.

What does this all add up to? China is trying to have it both ways. It wants to lessen its dollar exposure, but it also wants to hold down the yuan. The picture has been temporarily clouded by shifts in “hot capital” flows, but so long as China runs a large current-account surplus, its reserves will rise. In order to keep the yuan weak against the dollar, a large chunk of those reserves will end up in greenbacks. Beijing’s appetite may not match Washington’s growing need for cash. But China cannot sour on the dollar without letting its own currency rise.


《经济学人》中国的美元储备——并非如此安全

中国的美元储备——并非如此安全

Apr 23rd 2009
From The Economist print edition

中国正在撇弃美元?

    中国是美国最大的债务国。政策导致中国积累了大量的外汇储备并将绝大部分投资于美元资产,过去三年,中国政府约购买了美财政部新增国库券的1/4。但正当华盛顿创纪录举债给飙涨的预算赤字及拯救其银行业提供资金之时,有迹象表明,北京对美元债务的兴趣在缩减。

    根据官方数字,中国一月及二月的外汇储备(增速)有所下降。整个第一季度仅增长80亿美元,而去年同期增长为1540亿美元。中国官员公开表示对美国庞大财政及货币扩张对其美元资产价值产生的效应深感忧虑。中国人民银行行长周小川在一片姿态鲜明的文章中推出新的国际储备货币的观点。下降的外汇储备,结合高调的言辞,助长了中国将止步购买美元资产的担心。

细探储备

    评估该风险意味着回答两个问题。中国购买的外汇资产是否变少?及中国是否正在多样化其美元资产?在深入研究中国资本流动这一灰暗世界方面,无人能及纽约外交关系协会的布拉德·塞瑟尔,他的研究展示出一幅比官方数据所描绘的更加复杂的图画。

    根据官方数字,中国的外汇储备1.95万亿美元。但赛瑟尔先生认为,如果加上隐性储备,中国确切的外汇规模约为2.3万亿美元。隐性储备主要是指主权资产中国投资公司及中国人民银行的其他外汇资产。采用这种更宽的外汇储备标准,并调整非美元外汇储备资产的变化,赛瑟尔先生认为一季度中国总的外汇增长大约为400亿美元。仅是去年增加额的1/5。表面来看,这象征中国对外汇资产的需要大幅下降。

    但官方储备并非中国美元需求的唯一来源。要解释原因,我们来看看中国的贸易收支差额。中国的经常账户顺差比去年要大。这一贸易顺差所伴随的外国直接投资使中国中国第一季度净资本流入超过1000亿美元。如果外汇储备仅增长400亿美元,剩余600亿美元肯定有其他途径。尽管中国对资本控制严格,但其正在经历大量的投机性资本外流,或者说热钱外流,大部是中国投资者所致。正如,去年热钱流入驱使中国外汇储备增长高于经常账户顺差,相反,资本流出导致外汇储备下降。但只要中国继续保持大量的经常账户顺差,按照定义,外汇储备就会继续增长。最近,只不过改变了资产的购买者。逃出中国的热钱仍然会购买美国短期证劵或者其他一些能购买的投资工具。

    另外一个问题,中国政府是否多样化了其储备货币?官方数据仍不足以说明这个问题。国家外汇管理局(SAFE)是中国外汇储备的管理机构,并未公布细节。美国财政部公布的外国对美短期证券的投资报告提供的数据数据,可能低估了中国对美短期证劵的购买力,因为中国会通过非美国途径购买。正如赛瑟尔及其同事阿帕纳·潘迪估计,2006年中期以来,中国购买的美国短期证劵中30%通过伦敦购买。如果将这些数字也考虑在华盛顿的报告中,中国持有约1.5万亿美元资产,其中一半是财政部短期证劵。占中国总外汇储备70%,而2002年时则高达80%,下跌主要反映了美元走弱,而非转向其他外汇。

    过去几年,国家外汇管理局一直在多样化所持有的美元资产。2007年,开始购买如房利美和房地美等政府机构债务,以取代短期债券。2007年和2008年,开始购买企业股票。市场崩溃前夕,中国所持有的美国企业股票翻了至少三倍,达到1000亿美元。去年金融市场崩溃前,国家外汇管理局可能持有超过其总投资组合15%的公司债券,对于政府机构而言,这一比例过高,从而使其面临巨大的风险。普遍认为,外汇管理局并不以市场为标志,因而储备规模数字规避了其损失。但可能肯定的是外汇管理局公布的数字缩小了投资黑石集团及摩根斯坦利的损失。前者是一家保险公司,后者是一家投资银行。

    从许多标准衡量,中国的外汇投资组合在危机中有所优化,因为其所持有的大部分外汇储备仍是长期证券,随着利率下降,长期债券价格有所上涨,还有到目前为止,美元依旧强劲。但投资危险资产所造成的损失,急剧转变了其投资行为。2008年以来,国家外汇管理局卖出其所持有的政府机构债务及公司股票。长期证券购买量急剧增加,最近,几乎不再购买短期证券。根据赛瑟尔的数字,过去三个月中国的美元资产是几年来第一次未见增长——尽管其储备规模少有增加。.

    所有这些分析的结论是什么?中国正在见风使舵。想减少其美元资产曝光频率,又想压制人民币升值。热钱的流动使得情形一时扑朔迷离,但只要中国继续保持经常账户大量顺差,外汇储备就会增加。为保持人民币相对美元的弱势,大量的外汇储备必须以美元形式持有,北京对美元的需求可能赶不上华盛顿对现金的需求。但中国不会撇弃美元,除非允许人民币升值。



来源:
http://www.yeeyan.com/articles/view/70430/38458/dz

posted on 2009-11-24 14:59 泥瓜 阅读(765) 评论(7)  编辑  收藏 所属分类: 我思故我在

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# re: Not quite so safe (From The Economists) 并非如此安全 2009-11-25 00:11 昊天客

祝你考试顺风!  回复  更多评论   

# re: Not quite so safe (From The Economists) 并非如此安全 2009-11-25 02:12 胖狗

泥瓜是学经济学的?  回复  更多评论   

# re: Not quite so safe (From The Economists) 并非如此安全[未登录] 2009-11-25 10:13 蘑菇

上次看到过一篇文章
正是由于中国的外汇储备主要是美元
而现在欧元是那么的强劲
于是中美要联合起来与欧盟斗法  回复  更多评论   

# re: Not quite so safe (From The Economists) 并非如此安全 2009-11-25 17:36 泥瓜

@昊天客
谢谢!  回复  更多评论   

# re: Not quite so safe (From The Economists) 并非如此安全 2009-11-25 17:37 泥瓜

@胖狗
不算吧,专业不是这个,但是必须要学这些课,呵呵,不过高中就读了基础经济学了,感觉非常有用~~  回复  更多评论   

# re: Not quite so safe (From The Economists) 并非如此安全 2009-11-25 17:38 泥瓜

@蘑菇
恩 有道理,中国那堆美元储蓄足以将中美两国的经济命脉绑在一起。。。突然想到班上的瑞士帅哥了,哈哈。  回复  更多评论