Paul De Grauwe es el economista más didáctico que he leído. En su libro - altamente recomendable - "The Limits of The Maket: The Pendulum between Government and Market", tiene un capítulo definitivo sobre los estropicios del euro. Me parece un texto óptimo para el no economista, aunque muchos economistas españoles lo deberían leer, porque todavía no han aprendido cómo una crisis de liquidez puede llevar a una crisis de solvencia.
Como sé que esta tarde de sábado es aburrida y no hay nada que ver por Tv, salvo un partido de fútbol que va a causar risas y llantos a partes iguales, les dejo aquí está preciosa joya para que no pierdan el tiempo viendo chorradas. Total, una Champions de más o de menos...
The Euro is a Threat to the Market System When the euro was introduced in 1999, few people suspected that the new monetary union the countries were entering would fundamentally change the nature of national governments in the euro countries. I will argue in this chapter that this change in the monetary regime made it much more difficult for national governments to stabilize the market system. The flipside of this was that the power of the financial markets increased to fill the gap. The euro further enhanced the trend mentioned in Chapter 1 for governments to be placed under ever more pressure from the rising market. In order to understand this it is necessary to outline a few fundamental insights into the function of a currency union. The Eurozone Weakens National Governments When a country becomes a member of a monetary union, it loses its own national currency and takes on the common currency. In the case of the eurozone that currency was the euro. The currency is managed by a common central bank (in the eurozone the European Central Bank, the ECB). This means that national governments, including the national central banks, lose control over the money, with several implications. Here we will focus on one of those implications, possibly the most important. The governments of countries in a monetary union have to issue their debt in a currency over which they have no control. The Belgian and Dutch governments, for example, now issue their debt in euros. From the perspective of the national governments the euro is like a foreign currency, because they have no control over its issue. This is important because the national governments cannot offer any guarantee to bond holders that the cash (euros) will be available to pay them on the maturity date. This contrasts with governments in countries which have their own currency. The British government (or Swedish, American, and so on) is able to give bond holders this implicit guarantee. The British government issues bonds in pounds, a currency over which the government has complete control, so in the event of a lack of pounds, it would compel the Bank of England to supply more to pay the bond holders. There is no limit to how many pounds the Bank of England can create. The British government can offer its bond holders a cast-iron guarantee. It will never end up in a situation in which it has no cash, because it is unconditionally supported by the Bank of England. This applies to stand-alone countries which issue their own currency. The governments in the eurozone cannot offer this kind of guarantee, with the important implication that the financial markets can push national governments into insolvency against their will. This will not be immediately clear, so let us set up a scenario. We will take Spain as an example, comparing it with the United Kingdom. Imagine that a negative economic shock affects Spain, as it did in 2010, when a deep recession was coupled with a banking crisis. The result of the shock is that the Spanish government deficit rises, also causing government debt to increase. Investors worry when they see this happen, wondering whether the Spanish government has sufficient liquidity to pay back the debt. What do investors do when they are afraid of something like this? They sell the Spanish government bonds. This sale has a dual effect. Firstly it raises the interest rate on Spanish government bonds, resulting in the Spanish government incurring higher costs when borrowing money to cover its deficit. Secondly the investors who have sold Spanish government bonds receive euros in return. They will want to reinvest those euros somewhere else and will probably go in search of bonds they have confidence in, such as German government bonds. This means that euros leave Spain and end up in Germany to be invested in German government securities, resulting in the Spanish money market drying up and the Spanish government having no money to pay out on bonds as they mature. The Spanish government finds itself in a liquidity crisis, which may force it to default. In this scenario we encounter a self-fulfilling prophecy. Investors fear that the Spanish government will have payment problems. This leads to activity (selling) which will make their fear come true. If they had not panicked, the liquidity crisis would not have happened. This self-fulfilling process is not possible in the UK. Let us examine the same scenario. In 2010 the country was affected by a similar shock to that in Spain: a deep recession and banking crisis led to a large budget deficit and substantial rise in government debt. The development of the government debt in both countries is shown in Figure 11.1. We can see that after the deep recession of 2008–9 government debt in both countries began to rise steeply. We also see that government debt in the UK rose even more than that in Spain, so investors had good reason to be concerned about the British government and its capacity to pay back debt. Like the Spanish investors, they will sell their British government bonds. What effects does this have? The first effect is parallel to what we have seen in the Spanish scenario. The interest rate on British government bonds rises. Investors who now acquire pounds for selling bonds will want to invest in government bonds they trust. In this case, however, the second effect is completely different. We assume that the choice in this scenario would also be German government bonds. In order to buy German government bonds, investors will have to sell their pounds for euros on the exchange market. This will cause the price of the pound to drop (a depreciation of the pound). The existence of an exchange market also prevents the pounds from disappearing from the UK. The pounds which investors have sold to acquire euros now go to other investors in the same country. In contrast with Spain there is therefore no liquidity squeeze. Of course it may be that the owners of the pounds are not willing to buy British government bonds. Could the British government have liquidity problems in that case? The answer is no. The British government still has the Bank of England as backup. If it does not succeed in finding cash in the market to redeem the bonds when they mature, it will compel the Bank of England to supply those pounds, and as we stated earlier, the Bank of England can fulfil all the liquidity needs of the British government because it creates the pounds from nothing. When we compare Spain with the UK, we see the following. Both were confronted with a similar negative shock which caused government debt to rise steeply. The difference is that the financial markets can push the Spanish government into a liquidity crisis and insolvency, whereas the same markets cannot have this effect on the British government, which has a superior weapon in the form of its own central bank to create as much money as it wants. The financial markets can push Spain or any other eurozone member state into bankruptcy, but they cannot do this to countries like the UK which issue debt in their own currency. The difference in the way the financial markets treat the Spanish and British governments in a debt crisis is also illustrated in Figure 11.2. We can see that during the crisis the Spanish government suddenly had to pay very high interest on its bonds because investors panicked and sold Spanish bonds en masse. This did not happen in the UK, despite the fact that the British government’s budget situation was no better than that of the Spanish government. Investors knew that their British government bonds were safe, so they did not sell them and the interest rate on British government securities even began to drop.
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