A reckoning has begun for corporate debt monsters
As rates rise, how messy will the squeeze on business get?
When investment bankers agreed in January to underwrite the leveraged buy-out of Citrix, a software company, by a group of private-equity firms, returns on safe assets like government bonds were piffling. Yield-hungry investors were desperate to get their hands on any meaningful return, which the 15bn to finance the transaction. Inflation would pass, central bankers insisted. Russia hadn’t invaded Ukraine, energy markets were placid and the world’s economies were growing.
今年1月份，投行们通过杠杆收购软件公司 Citrix，杠杆资金来自几家私营公司组成的小组，这个玩意显得国债这种安全资产的收益不够看了。这笔交易的规模是 165 亿美元，这导致渴望收益的投资者需要“饥不择食”地攫取高额收益。（但我没看懂前两句话的因果关系，它可能是说，投行在本次交易中需要的资金规模是 165 亿美元，因此银行需要这些钱来投资，那么银行从哪里弄到这笔钱呢？那当时需要有人把这些钱“借给”银行喽。而银行需要为这些钱提供信用保障。）。出资方，包括 Credit Sussie 和 Goldman Sachs 等，愿意提供 150 亿美元的资金来进行这次收购。当时各国央行们觉得，通胀会过去。当时俄国还没有入侵乌克兰，能源市场还强劲，并且世界经济还在增长。
Nine months later the banks tried to offload the debt in a market gripped not by greed but by dread—of stubborn inflation, war and recession. Struggling to find takers, they palmed off 600m loss. They are still nursing the remaining $6.4bn on their balance-sheets.
9个月后的今天，银行们试图在市场紧缺（market gripped）的情况下处理这些债务，这是出于恐惧而非贪婪，恐惧的源头是严重的通胀、战争和萎缩。由于找不到下家，他们决定打折处理 86 亿美元的债权，预计损失 6 亿美元。之后，他们的负债表仍然背负着 64 亿美元的债务。（这里说一下 balance-sheets 是资产负债表，比如你在银行里存了 1 块钱，这 1 块钱会变成银行资本-负债表上的 1 元收益和 1 元负债；比如银行借出 1 块钱，会在表上记 1 元的债权和 1 元的损失，因此，这个表总是“平衡”的。）
The Citrix fiasco is an egregious example of a broader shift in corporate-debt markets. Having rediscovered their inner inflation-busting Paul Volcker, Western central banks are pushing interest rates to levels not seen in 15 years and shrinking their balance-sheets. Those that bought corporate bonds during the pandemic in order to stave off a wave of bankruptcies have been selling them, or have already done so. All this is draining the market of liquidity as investors abandon riskier assets like corporate debt in favour of safe Treasury bonds, now that these suddenly promise a decent return, observes Torsten Slok of Apollo, a private-asset manager. The result is plummeting prices of corporate bonds, especially for less creditworthy firms: yields on junk paper have soared to 9.4% in America and 7.8% in the euro area, up from 4.4% and 2.8%, respectively, in January (see chart 1). Activity is fading in the exotic corners of the corporate-credit market, including for collateralised loan obligations.
针对 Citrix 的收购案是一个负面典型，它标志着公司债务市场的大环境发生了改变。西方国家的央行们为了对付通胀，起用了素有通胀克星之称的 Paul Volcker，他们开始上调利率，上调的规模之大达到了近十五年之最，不仅如此，他们还开始“缩表”。（刚才介绍了资产负债表，“缩表”就是把表上记录的进、出账项目“清理”一下，该讨的讨，该还的还，反正它是“平衡的”，不是吗？）。在疫情期间，有的公司买入公司股票（防止它跌得妈都不认识了）来防止破产，这时他们开始售出自己的股票，当然，有的已经早就又卖完了。这些操作无疑是消减了市场流动性，投资者们开始放弃风险较高的公司股票，转向更加安全的避险资产性的股票，这些股票虽然在第一段时还不受待见，但经济下行时，他们的收益还是挺好的。（你看贱不贱呐）。市场反应非常直接，公司股价暴跌，信用越低跌得越狠：这些股票的收益率已经从 1 月份的 9.4（美国） 和 7.8（欧洲）飙升到了9月份的 4.4（美国）和 2.8（欧洲）。就连担保责任的公司股都已经开始失去活力。（话说回来，收益率这玩意升了不是好事吗？这得具体问题具体分析，因为它是收益除以股价的指标，所以你得看它是怎么升上来的。如果是因为收入增加了，那么是好事，但如果是因为股价暴跌，那显然不是什么好现象）。
All this raises awkward questions about what happens next with the mountain of debt that companies have amassed in the past couple of decades (see chart 2). Since 2000 non-financial corporate debt has gone up from 64% of gdp to 81% in America and from 73% to 110% in the euro area. (In Britain the share is a modest 68%, roughly what it was in 2000, a rare spot of relief for an otherwise beleaguered economy.) All told, American, British and euro-area public companies currently owe their creditors almost 17trn owed by unlisted firms. Just how wobbly is this pile?
接下来的问题是，如何处理这些长达数十年积累的、堆积如山的债务？从 2000 年至今，非金融公司债务的 GDP 占比已经从 64%（美国）和 73%（欧洲）增长到了 81%（美国）和 110%（欧洲），英国的情况意外的好，68%，基本已经是陷入泥潭的经济中的一枝独秀。合算下来，美、英、欧的公司欠了债主们 1 万 9 千亿美元，以及欠了未列出名字的公司 1 万 7 千亿美元。摇摇欲坠。
The credit crunch will not affect all borrowers equally. Indeed, viewed in aggregate the West’s corporate debt load looks manageable. We calculate that American public companies’ earnings before interest and tax are a healthy 6.7 times the interest due on their debts, up from 3.6 times in 2000. In the euro area, this interest-coverage ratio has risen from 4.4 to 7 this century. Moreover, some riskier borrowers loaded up on debt at low rates during the pandemic. Just 16% of the euro area’s junk bonds by value mature before the end of 2024. In America the figure is 8%.
债主们借钱的方式千奇百怪，公司债务看上去也并非铁板一块，因此需要分门别类。我们计算了美国公司的收入，发现在税前，他们的收入数额是他们的欠款利息的 6.7 倍，而在 2000 年是，这个比值是 3.6。在欧洲，这个利润利息覆盖率从 4.4 增长到了 7.0。更有甚者，有的风险较高的公司在疫情期间还用较低的利息借到了钱。（最后一句没看懂，好像是 2024 年有 16% 的欧洲公司和 8 %的美国公司的什么垃圾股价值成熟？这啥破玩意？不过感觉是这个数量还是可控的样子。）
Yet the surge in borrowing costs will cause strain, in three areas. The first comprises businesses that have come to rely on less orthodox sources of credit, which are often those with the diciest prospects. The outstanding value of leveraged loans in America, typically provided by a syndicate of banks and non-bank lenders, now matches that of junk bonds, and it has been growing briskly in Europe, too. The same is true of the value of private credit, offered by private-asset managers such as Apollo and Blackstone. Such loans tend to tolerate higher leverage in return for high and, more troubling right now, floating interest rates. Borrowers are thus far more exposed to rate rises. Because this sort of debt often comes with fewer strings attached, lenders have limited ability to accelerate repayment once signs of distress emerge.
总之，借贷成本激增会导致问题，问题包含三个领域。首先是依赖“非正统渠道”融资的公司，这些渠道通常伴随着高风险因素。美国那些高杠杆借贷机构，背后是财团银行或非银行投资者的那些，就是这些渠道的典型代表。欧洲也是一样。那些私营价值管理公司，类似 Apollo 和 Blackstone 这样的，也是一样。这些贷款往往能够容忍高风险，因为他们具有高回报（虽然当下不太可能），并且利息浮动。在当下的情况下，这些公司受到利率上调的影响最严重。而他们受到的监管也最小，债权人也基本没有能力要求他们，不能说一有风吹草动就要求他们加速偿还债务。
The second area of vulnerability involves so-called zombie firms: uncompetitive enterprises, kept alive by cheap debt and, during the pandemic, government bail-outs. Fortunately, according to our calculations the corporate undead are relatively rare and typically small. We define a zombie company as one that has been listed for at least ten years, with consistently below-average revenue growth and an interest-coverage ratio of one or less, stripping out fast-growing but loss-making tech firms, pre-revenue businesses in sectors like biotechnology, where products take years to get to market, and revenue-less holding companies.
第二个领域是所谓的“僵尸公司”：那种非竞争性的，依赖低信贷成本维持生存的，在疫情期间依靠政府补助生存的公司。幸运的是，根据我们的计算，这类公司数量不多，规模也很小。我们怎么计算的呢？我们定义僵尸公司的方式是：首先，它是存在 10 年以上的上市公司，并且利润持续地保持低增长，有多低呢？就是它的利润利息覆盖率要小于等于 1.0；其次，我们不计算那些快速增长的，但亏损的技术公司，也不计算那些提前盈利的生物技术公司，因为它们的研发和生产往往与产品上市严重不同步；最后也不计算那些不产生利润的控股公司。
On that definition, using data from Refinitiv we identify 443 zombies listed in America, Britain and the euro area (see chart 3). That is up from 155 in 2000, but still just 5.6% of all listed firms, responsible for 1.9% of total debt and 1.4% of total sales. Their demise could be the economy’s gain, as mismanaged firms with low productivity that binged on bail-outs finally close, although that would be cold comfort to their employees and owners.
通过以上的筛选方法，使用 Refintiv 的数据库，我们在美国、英国和欧洲找到了 443 家符合要求的僵尸公司，（这个数字在 2000 年是 155 家），仅占上市公司总量的 5.6%，还仅占总债务的 1.9% ，占总市值的 1.4%。当这些管理不良的、低生产力的、依靠政府扶持的公司最终关门时，它们的消失对经济是有好处的，而它们的存在只是对于他们的雇员和所有者起到了“不起作用的安慰”。
The third and biggest area of concern is firms that are merely unfit rather than undead. One way of capturing their prevalence is to look at firms with an interest-coverage ratio of less than two. That gets you to a fifth of the total debt of listed American and European companies—some $4trn-worth (see chart 4). Alternatively consider firms whose debts are rated just above junk status. Some 58% of the investment-grade non-financial corporate bond market is now rated bbb, according to Fitch, a ratings agency. The average yield on such bonds has more than doubled in America in the past 12 months, to 6.1%. Unlike high-yield bonds, many of them come due soon and will need to be refinanced at much higher rates.
受到融资成本激增影响的第三个领域的问题最大，如果僵尸公司是岁月静好地等死，那些这些公司稍微好一点，只是有点“不适”。筛选这些公司的方法是看它们的利润利息覆盖率是不是小于 2.0。这些公司债务占了美国和欧洲上市公司总债务的约五分之一，约 4 千亿美元。换个视角，看看那些债务水平刚刚超过垃圾级的公司。这些公司中 58% 的公司被评级机构评为了 BBB 级。在美国，这些公司的股票平均收益在过去 12 个月中增长了一倍，达到了 6.1 %。与高收益股票的公司不同的是，这些公司中的许多公司需要在近期还款，因此需要以较高的成本进行融资。
Ever since the global financial crisis of 2007-09 plenty of mature companies with slow sales growth have taken advantage of cheap credit to pile on debt to the verge of junk status in order to fund shareholder payouts. As profits come under pressure and interest costs rise, they face a squeeze that could lead them to cut jobs and investment. And if earnings plummet, which some analysts are beginning to predict as recession fears mount, this financing strategy could push these businesses over the edge into junk territory. Asset managers whose portfolio mandates require them to favour safe assets may be forced into fire sales, triggering a crash in prices and a further surge in borrowing costs.
在经历了 2007 到 2009 年的全球经济危机之后，许多成熟的、销售增长较慢的公司选择通过便宜的信贷方式来偿还股东的债务，这使它们逼近垃圾股的状态。由于受到利润压力和利息成本增加的影响，他们面临必须要裁员和减小投资的窘境。在这样的情况下，如果收入骤降，就像分析师担心的经济衰退恐慌来临时，那边经济政策会将这些公司推向垃圾股的深渊。而资产管理者的委托责任要求他们偏好安全资产，可能导致他们进行“挤兑”抛售，导致价格下跌，导致融资成本激增。
Most of the firms operating just above junk status are still a long way off a downgrade, reckons Lotfi Karoui of Goldman Sachs. Many of the flakiest investment-grade borrowers were downgraded early in the pandemic, so the remaining ones are on average more robust. A nightmare scenario is not, in other words, inevitable. But it is no longer inconceivable, either. ■
来自 Goldman Sachs 的 Lotfi Karoui 认为，对大多数公司来说，仅仅是将自己维持在垃圾级以上就已经相当困难了。许多“古怪”的投资导向的投资者在疫情初期就已经降低投资了，因此，现在留下来的基本上更加“稳定”。所以说恶梦并非不可避免，但它已经并非遥不可及。
America’s economy is too strong for its own good
Despite market turmoil, the Fed is set on relentless rate rises
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Two days after the latest interest-rate rise, the seven governors of the Federal Reserve met with some businessfolk. Any misgivings about the effects of tighter monetary policy would have been quickly dispelled. Cara Walton of Harbour Results, a consultancy, spoke of a plastics processor who hired 14 new employees, only for a mere three to show up on their first day (and one of those to quit before lunch). Cheetie Kumar, a restaurateur, said her peers were struggling to make rent as food and labour bills mounted. Tom Henning of Cash-Wa, a distribution company, explained his firm was passing costs onto customers. Demand was holding up, he said, thanks to the amount of money “floating out there in the economy”.
在上一次加息的仅仅两天后，美联储的 7 名官员会见了一些商界大佬。空气中瞬间弥漫着对收紧货币政策的不安的紧张气氛。来自 Harbour Results （咨询公司） 的 CW 新雇佣了 14 名员工，在首日仅有 3 名露面，其中 1 名在午餐中退出。经营餐馆的 CK 说她职位的前任受困于堆积如山的食物和工资账单。来自 Cash-Wa （物流公司） 的 TH 说他的公司将成本转移到消费者身上。他说，需求停滞了，这是由于“钱在经济中漂着”。（我不明白这个话是什么意思，也许看到后面会理解）
Misgivings may, however, have crept back in as the governors watched the markets over the past fortnight. The central bank’s goal is to tame inflation, which is running at more than 8% year on year, just shy of a four-decade high. The realisation that the central bank is still far from that goal, and that monetary tightening will thus continue, is causing havoc. American stocks have fallen for three consecutive quarters, and sharply recently. Bond prices are tumbling, reflecting tremors in the credit markets. The ratcheting up of rates in America is driving the dollar’s appreciation, adding to inflationary pressure elsewhere and impelling other central banks to follow the Fed’s lead, no matter the state of their economies. On September 30th Lael Brainard, the Fed’s vice chair, called for her fellow governors to proceed “deliberately”, a word denoting caution in the central bank’s argot. She also said the Fed would take its international impact into account.
这种恐慌也在一夜之间蔓延回到了监督市场的政府部门。央行的目标是“驯服（tame）”通胀，这个指标年复一年地高于 8% （的危险水平），处于近四十年的高位。央行目前离控制通胀的目标还很遥远，因此紧缩的货币政策仍将继续，而大家对这个态势的认知导致了严重的破坏（havoc）。美股连续三个季度下跌，最后跌得尤其快。债券价格下跌，反映了信用市场的恐慌。抬升（ratcheting）的利率导致美元走强，再加上无处不在的通胀压力，导致各国央行都要跟随美联储的政策，而罔顾本国的经济情况。今年 9 月 30 日，美联储副主席 LB 命令她的幕僚们实行“去自由化（deliberately）” ，所谓去自由化其实是央行界的黑话，意思是“小心点儿”。她还说，联邦将同时考虑政策的国际影响。
This was an acknowledgement of the risks of the current approach—it was not an indication that the central bank is about to change tack. The Fed simply cannot ignore the strength of the domestic economy. Even with the financial upheaval, America’s economy is straining at its limits in critical dimensions. In the labour market there are two jobs available for every unemployed person. Wages, up roughly 7% compared with a year earlier, are rising at their fastest pace since the early 1980s, according to the Atlanta Fed. Although house prices declined month on month in August, new home sales jumped, confounding expectations. Corporate profits are at their highest in decades as a share of gdp. Despite higher rates, consumer confidence has been climbing.
这仅仅是对当前的危机表示尊重，并不是说央行会因此改变目前的方针（tack）。美联储仅仅是无法忽视强劲的国内经济。在金融动荡的条件下，美国经济还是在逼近临界区域。（这啥意思，没看懂）在劳动力市场上，每位失业者都有两份工作机会可供选择。根据 Atlanta Fed 的调查，与上年同期相比，工资上涨了 7% ，达到了自 20 世纪 80 年代以来的最高上涨速度。自 8 月以来，尽管每个朋房价都有所下跌，新房销售仍然跳水，远低于预期。公司利润占 GDP 的比重处于近 10 年来的最高点。虽然利率更高了，但消费者信心却上升了。
This constitutes a serious challenge for the Fed: the more resilient the economy, the harder it will have to push to rein in inflation. More jumbo rate rises are thus on the cards, heightening the risk of a monetary mistake and an eventual recession. There is always a lag between shifts in monetary policy and their impact on real activity—the recent rate rises will inevitably take a toll on the American economy over the coming year. To get a sense of why, despite the brewing trouble, the Fed remains hawkish, it is crucial to understand why the economy has remained insulated so far.
The most obvious factor also explains America’s inflation: the government was more aggressive than others in stimulating the economy during the covid-19 pandemic. America’s primary budget deficit—the difference between government spending and revenues, excluding interest payments—averaged 10.5% in 2020 and 2021, more than triple its pre-pandemic level and higher than all other big rich countries.
美国现阶段通胀的最明显的原因是，政府比别国政府在新冠疫情期间更加激进地刺激经济。在 2020 和 2021 两年间，美国政府债务赤字，政府支出与收入的差值，再除去支付利息，平均是 10.5%，是在疫情前的三倍，并且比其他发达国家都要更多。
Formally, this stimulus ended some time ago. The last big short-term fiscal package was President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan (arp) in March last year. But in reality, stimulus is still working its way through the system. Hefty dollops of arp cash are only just hitting the economy. States were granted about $200bn in direct emergency funding. In August, they had yet to draw on a fifth of that. And they are still doling out the funding they have claimed. In the past couple of weeks alone, Louisville, Kentucky announced it would spend arp funds on affordable housing; Monroe Country, New York directed some to health services; and Cumberland Country, Tennessee splashed out on water and sewer projects.
从形式上讲，这些刺激在前段时间已经结束了。上一个大型短期经济包是 Joe Biden 总统于去年 3 月，在美国纾困计划（American Rescue Plan，ARP）中签署的。但事实上，这些刺激目前还在通过系统进行工作。直接掐断 ARP 的现金只会对经济造成损害。联邦募集了 2000 亿美元进行直接紧急投资。截至今年 8 月，他们花费了其中的五分之一。目前，他们仍然在继续进行投资。在过去的 2 周时间里，肯塔基州声称这些资金将用于保障住房（affordable housing）；纽约州计划用于健康服务；田纳西州用于水和灌溉项目。
Even more important is how the stimulus continues to puff up the balance sheets of both people and firms. Households sit on about 2.8trn of cash in hand, down from the start of the year but about a quarter more than before the pandemic. They have also taken advantage of robust demand to pass on inflated input costs to customers, protecting their margins and then some. Post-tax corporate profits reached 12% of gdp in the second quarter, the highest since at least the 1940s. So long as companies are making profits, they look to hire, not fire, workers.
更重要的是，这些刺激推高了民众和公司的资产负债表。与疫情前相比，家庭储蓄中有 2 万亿美元的超额储蓄。他们开始使用这些储蓄，由于今年的利息下降了。尽管在通胀侵蚀他们的收入（的购买力）的情况下，这些存款也使他们的消费不下降太多。对于商业的影响与过日子类似。在第三季度开始时，他们拥有 2.8 万亿现金，虽然低于上一季度，但高于疫情前的水平。而且，由于具有稳健的需求作为支撑，商人能够将通胀的成本转移到消费者身上，从而保持自己的利润不变。在第二季度，公司的税后利润达到了 GDP 的 12%，达到了自 20 世纪 40 年代以来的最高值。只要公司还在盈利，他们就会招人，而不是裁员。
Nor has growth been hindered, as it has in Europe, by soaring energy costs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Indeed, America has, in one sense, benefited from it. Exports of both crude oil and petroleum products are at an all-time high. In net terms America has exported about 1m barrels a day of crude and petroleum products since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—all the more remarkable given that America was a net importer to the tune of 10m barrels a day at the start of the century. The boom in oil-export earnings has contributed to a narrowing of America’s trade deficit, which may flatter its growth figures over the rest of this year.
美国的增长也还未停止，这一点与欧洲不同，因为那地方受到俄罗斯入侵乌克兰的影响能源价格上涨。事实上，从某种意义上讲，美国还从中受益。原油和化工产品的出口前所未有的高。入侵以来，美国原油和化工产品的净出口量为每天 1 百万桶，要知道在本世纪初，美国每天净进口 1 千万桶。由于石油出口的收入暴增，这无疑弥补了美国的贸易赤字，让美国年度增长数据变得更加好看。
American consumers have been rather less enthusiastic about higher prices at the pump. If they compared themselves with their peers in Europe, they might be more sanguine. Natural-gas prices have historically been a smidgen higher in Europe than America. These days they are about five times higher. Europe has been gradually cut off from Russia, its main gas supplier; America is awash with its own energy. It has only limited liquefaction capacity, which is needed for exports, meaning the gas it releases from the ground is mostly consumed domestically. In Europe monetary tightening is compounded by the negative shock from soaring energy prices, which is why forecasters expect a deeper recession. In America the Fed can more or less look beyond the ructions in the energy markets.
美国消费者对价格上涨并不怎么感冒。与他们的欧洲哥们相比，他们甚至可能乐开了花。天然气价格在历史上一般是欧洲稍高于美国。但这段时间欧洲的价格是美国的 5 倍。欧洲逐步掐断了来自俄罗斯的联系，要知道俄罗斯是欧洲天然气的主要供应商；而美国是能源充足的（awash）。美国只有有限的液化天然气的能力，液化是用于出口的，这代表美国领土上出产的天然气绝大部分用于国内消费。欧洲收紧货币政策的原因是出于能源价格上涨，因此政策预期是陷入更深的衰退。而美联储则可以或多或少地忽略能源市场的骚动。
Sooner or later, continued rate rises will drag on the American economy. That, after all, is the Fed’s intention. The most rate-sensitive sectors are already being hit. Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages have reached 7%, the highest in more than a decade. A steep rise in credit-card balances suggests that households are starting to exhaust their savings. Higher interest rates will only make debts more onerous. Corporate profits also look set to flag—one reason for the recent stock-market plunge.
终有一天，不断上涨的利息会拖慢美国经济。美联储很关注这一点。对于利率最敏感的部门已经受到了冲击。30年期的抵押债券利率已经达到了 7%，处于近 10 年来的最高值。信用卡账单的激增已经说明业主位正在耗尽自己的积蓄。更高的利率会让债务显然更加棘手。公司利润也开始有受影响的迹象，因为最近股市开始暴跌。
Nevertheless, a slow, steady return to normality after covid acts as a buffer against these dangers. Take the property market. The inventory of homes available for sale remains very low by historical standards, in part because the supply of building materials, just like other goods, has been badly constrained over the past few years. A leap in mortgage rates would usually be expected to lead to a precipitous slowdown in construction activity. This time, though, builders are still building, trying to work through the backlog of unfinished homes.
Meanwhile, goods consumption shot up during the pandemic as people bought new couches, bigger televisions and fancier exercise bikes for their homes. Now they are returning to cruises and concerts. This shift matters for the job market because services tend to be more labour-intensive. Even if consumers spend less in aggregate, they are spending more on the kinds of things that require lots of workers, boosting employment.
Spread over the entire economy, this is a powerful trend. America’s workforce today is basically the same size as in 2019. Its composition is, however, very different. There are 1m more workers in transportation and warehousing, reflecting the rise and rise of online shopping. At the other end of the spectrum, more than 1m workers have left the leisure and hospitality sectors over the past three years. According to the National Restaurant Association, a lobby group, roughly two in three restaurants are understaffed. Thus the slowdown in growth may lead to a smaller rise in unemployment than it otherwise would have done. Companies suffering from worker shortages have little fat to trim.
在整个经济中，这是个很强的趋势。美国当今的劳动力数量与 2019 年持平。但劳动力构成却迥然不同。比如，从事物流和仓储的工人增加了 1 百万人，说明线上消费的增加。在光谱的另一端，过去三年间，有 1 百万人离开了康复和医疗部门。根据国家旅馆协会的统计，有三分之二的旅馆处于人手不同的状态。因此，增长放缓会导致失业率的小幅上涨，但仍小于增长加速。那些缺人手的公司只需要小小地减一下肥。
So good, it’s bad
In one sense, this resilience is to be welcomed. It implies that a recession, if one arrives, is likely to be mild. But the Fed is determined to get inflation down, and is focused on wage growth as a proxy for underlying price pressures. Continued labour-market tightness therefore inclines the central bank towards a tougher, longer bout of monetary tightening.
The Fed has already raised rates by a full three percentage points this year, its steepest increase in four decades. As turmoil sweeps through financial markets, some economists have criticised the central bank for going too far, too fast. Some Fed officials also seem to be getting cold feet. But their hawkish colleagues have the upper hand after a year of upside surprises in inflation. The baseline expectation of investors is that the Fed will deliver at least another percentage point of rate increases before the end of the year. That may well be a conservative guess. Even after half a year of monetary tightening and a slowdown in growth, the economy still suffers from a shortfall of supply and a surfeit of demand—most especially for workers. In the face of such a mismatch, the only direction for interest rates is up. ■
美联储已于今年对利率上调了 3%，是四十年以来的最高上调。针对在金融市场蔓延的不安情绪，经济学家开始批评央行的政策过强、过快。一些联邦官员开始退缩。但他们的鹰派同事位则正为了近一年来的令人惊讶的高通胀忙得不可开交（have the upper hand）。业界对他们的预期是在年底前再进行约 1% 的加息。这也是比较保守的估计。尽管经历了半年的货币紧缩政策和经济下行，经济上还是面临供给不足和需求过度的问题，尤其是工人。而对于这个错配的问题，利率的唯一方向还是上涨。
Financial markets are in trouble. Where will the cracks appear?
The first big test of a new-look financial system
Oct 4th 2022 | NEW YORK
It is hard not to feel a sense of foreboding. As the Federal Reserve has tightened policy, asset prices have plunged. Stocks, as measured by the Wilshire 5000 all-cap index, have shed 7trn has been wiped off bonds, which have lost 14% of their value. Some $2trn of crypto market-cap has vanished over the past year. House prices adjust more slowly, but are falling. Mortgage rates have hit 7%, up from 3% last year. And this is all in America—one of the world’s strongest economies.
山雨欲来风满楼。美联储在加息，资产价格在跳楼。从今年 1 月以来，股票（以 Wilshire 5000 为例）套牢了 1 万 2 千亿美元的市场资本。另有 7 千亿美元以 14% 的损失为代价割肉离场。比特币市场更是直接在一年中蒸发了 2 千亿美元。住宅价格调整得比较慢，但始终在跌。按揭贷款利息从去年的 3% 上涨到了今年的 7%。这就是世界最大经济体，阿美利坎。
Rising rates will slow the American economy and should break the back of inflation. But what else will they break? Since the Federal Reserve raised rates again on September 22nd, global markets have been in turmoil. When the British government announced unfunded tax cuts a day later, fire-sales by pension funds caused the yield on government bonds (or “gilts”) to spiral out of control. Contagion then spread to the American Treasury market, which is as volatile and illiquid as it was at the start of covid-19. The cost to insure against the default of Credit Suisse, a global bank, has risen sharply. These ructions indicate the world is entering a new phase, in which financial markets no longer just reflect the pain of adjusting to the new economic context—pricing in higher rates and lower growth—but now also spread pain of their own.
利息上涨会拖慢美国经济，同时遏制通胀。但它还有哪些副作用呢？自 9 月 22 日美联储再次加息以来，世界市场陷入恐慌。在英国政府宣布对无准备金税减税（unfunded tax cuts）的一天之后，养老金的火速抛售导致政府债券螺旋式失控。它的传染效应迅速蔓延到美国国债市场，那场景和新冠疫情刚刚开始时是一模一样的。针对 Credit Suisse 跨国银行债务违约的不确定性所造成的成本急剧飙升。这些骚动说明世界经济正在迈入新的篇章，那里经济市场不再反映新型经济活动的调整型阵痛，一般伴随着高利息和低增长，（这些都是历史了），而在新时代里，经济市场本身向外散发着他自己的痛感。
The most catastrophic pain is felt when financial institutions fail. There are two ways they do so: illiquidity or insolvency. Tighter monetary policy is likely to prompt or reveal both. It is illiquidity that comes first—and it has well and truly arrived. Take the British pension funds. They use a strategy called “liability-driven investing” to hedge against interest-rate moves. When rates shot up they faced margin calls, which they met by selling gilts. But yields moved so fast that this became a fire-sale, with prices spiralling downwards. The Bank of England had to step in to buy bonds. No one else was willing.
当大型金融机构轰然倒下时带来的痛感是最具灾难性的一种。它体现在两个方面，去流动性（illiquidity）与资不抵债（insolvency）。紧缩的货币政策会诱发或促使这两种情况发生。通常，去流动性是最先到来的，现在它们已经来临了。拿英国养老基金为例。他们使用债务驱动（liability-driven investing）的投资方式（a牵头就是加杠杆），用来对抗利息上升带来的影响。当利息升高，他们就面临追加保证金（margin calls）的要求，于是他们就开始卖政府债。但是当收益率变动过快，以至于导致挤兑的情况下，价格就开始螺旋式下跌。英格兰银行不得不出手购买这些债券。因为别人根本不买。
Credit costs are rising quickly, as would be expected in these circumstances. Betsy Graseck of Morgan Stanley, a bank, highlights how abrupt the shift has been: “In the most recent senior-loan-officers survey every single question they asked bankers about financial conditions flipped to tightening, all at once. I have never seen that before.” Yet the real problem is when credit is unavailable—no matter the price. British traders report there were “no bids” for gilts in the days after the government announced its plans. Measures of liquidity in the Treasury market have deteriorated, too. “We are seeing what happened in March 2020 again. The same Treasury bonds are trading at different prices, bid-ask spreads are widening,” says Darrell Duffie of Stanford University. Strategists at Bank of America describe their index of credit stress as “borderline critical” .
在这些情况发生时，信用成本也会急剧增加。来自 Morgan Stanley 银行的 Betsy Graseck 为了说明变化来得有多么突然时，他表示“我从没有见过这种场面。就在最近，高级贷款经理们跟商量好了一样，见面第一句话就开始问你，紧缩后经济会怎么样？”而真正的问题来自信用不再可知，这跟价格还没什么关系。英国的交易员者们说，政府放出风来之后，这几天都没有买政府债的。在流动性方面，国债市场也一样完蛋。来自 Stanford University 的 Darrell Duffie 表示，”现在所见的和 2020 年 3 月时简直一模一样。同一种国债你能在市场上看到一堆价格，都在找人接盘。“来自 Bank of America 的政策官员称现在的信用压力已经达到了临界（borderline critical）。
Equity markets have been just as turbulent, but they have at least continued to function. “You might not have liked the price you were seeing,” says Tal Cohen of Nasdaq, a stock exchange, “but you were always seeing a price.” He has yet to witness “demand destruction”, the thinning out of the order book when buyers and sellers begin to pull their orders en masse. This is despite the fact that the Bank of America’s strategists think markets have fallen to levels at which accumulated losses may be forcing funds to sell assets to raise cash, accelerating the sell-off.
股权市场也是一样混乱，不过他们至少还在履行正常功能。来自 Nasdaq 交易所的 Tal Cohen 说，”你可能不满意拿到的价格，但是你至少能拿到一个价格“他曾经目睹过”需求崩溃“，那个时候根本没有交易，买卖双方还得凑一堆人把定单合起来弄。（这有点冲突），尽管 Band of American 政策官员的想法（不太一样），他认为市场已经堕落到了不断累积的亏损逼得基金公司卖掉全部资产，以换取现金，那样的话会加速卖出。
Regardless, illiquidity in credit markets is enough of a problem. It can morph into a total lack of lending. Last week British banks rushed to pull mortgages from their proverbial shelves. If this dynamic gets out of hand it can typically be solved by central banks stepping in and operating as a lender of last resort, as the Bank of England did. The risk of doing so is not trivial, however. Such an intervention employs quantitative easing, buying securities using central-bank money—the path used by central banks to ease monetary policy. Thus it might undermine faith in central bankers’ commitment to fighting inflation.
无论如何，信用市场的去流动性已经是足够严重的问题了。它（随时）可能演变成贷款短缺。上周，英国银行紧急地把抵押从架子上抽出来。（没明白这个谚语是啥意思）。如果这些流动性失控的话，它能够通过央行介入充当最后担保人（last resort）的方式得到解决，Bank of England 也正是这么做的。然而，这么做的风险嘛，不好说（not trivial）。这个行为相当于进行了量化宽松，就是用央行的钱买股票，这是央行进行货币宽松政策的通常做法。因此，它会削弱市场对央行对抗通胀的承诺的信心。
Market-watchers now wonder whether all this pressure will lead to insolvencies, which happen when the value of an institution’s assets falls below its liabilities. It is the fate which befell insurers, including aig, and banks, including Lehman Brothers, in 2008. Homeowners across America defaulted on their loans, meaning mortgage-backed securities, assets the firms had bought, were no longer worth anything close to that for which they had been purchased. Insolvency is fatal, and only resolvable by bankruptcy or bail-outs.
市场观察者现在最想知道的是这些压力是否会最终导致资不抵债，这种情况在一个机构的资产低于负责的时候就会发生。这种悲剧命运在 2008 年的保险公司、银行（雷曼兄弟）身上发生过。当时美国的业主们集体断供，这导致基于这些房屋抵押的一切保险、资产变得一文不值（与它卖出时的价格相比）。资不抵债是必然的，只能通过破产或政府纾困来解决。
No time for cramming
The current tension is the first big test of a new-look financial system. Regulators have sought to make systemically important institutions—as Lehman Brothers surely would have been designated—too safe to fail. They have done this by compelling firms designated as such to follow stringent capital, liquidity and risk-taking rules, as well as by stress-testing them in hypothetical economic breakdowns. Regulators have also tried to reduce opacity and counterparty risk—the channels through which fears about Lehman morphed into suspicion of the entire banking system.
The result is that there are layers of protection around the financial system’s most important institutions. At the heart of markets are clearing houses, which settle trades in stocks and derivatives between their members (mostly big banks). To join a clearing house a member must post an “initial margin” in case of default; that margin can climb if markets move. The system is stress-tested against the default of even the clearing houses’ largest members, such as JPMorgan Chase or Citigroup.
这样做的结果是在经济系统最重要的部门之外建立了保护层。在市场的核心是一片净土（clearing houses），这里安放着股票交易，以及它们的成员（几乎都是大银行）之间的衍生品交易。要加入他们，成员需要提供万一债务违约时的安全边界；并且边界在市场转移时应该是可以逾越的。这个系统针对债务违约进行压力测试的效果是能够承担它们当中规模最大的成员倒下，比如 JPMorgan Chase or Citygroup。
The banks, which stand between the clearing houses and other financial institutions, such as pension funds, hedge funds and insurance firms, are also in better shape than they were heading into the financial crisis. The issues that precipitated the failure of Lehman Brothers were that the firm did not have enough capital (at times leading up to its demise it held capital worth just 3% of assets), it had taken on too much borrowing (holding debt worth 30 times its equity), its business model was dubious (making enormous bets on the American housing market), and it had taken on vast amounts of risk.
银行就处于这片净土与其他金融机构之间，比如养老基金，对冲基金和保险公司，这些公司比它们处在金融危机中时的状态还要好一些。当时雷曼兄弟骤然倒下的原因是公司没有足够的资金（当时他持有的资金仅占其资产的 3%），再加上借了太多的债（债务规模是 30 倍市值），商业模式存疑（过分依赖美国房地产市场），总之一句话，他们承担了过于巨大的风险。
Today there are 30 global banks designated as systemically important by regulators, some 28 of which are included in the kbw Nasdaq Global Bank Index, which tracks bank stocks. These 28 banks hold 13% of their assets as capital, and have debt worth five times their equity. But they do not get an entirely clean bill of health: some business models look fragile. On average the banks returned 9% profit on their equity last quarter, but the worst (other than Credit Suisse) returned just 4%. It is hard to assess, from the outside, whether any have taken huge risks.
现在，有 30 家跨国银行被政策制定者指定为系统重要（systemically important），其中有 28 家在 Nasdaq Global Bank Index 中，是银行股的风向标。这 28 家银行的资金是其资产的 13%，债务规模是其市值的 5 倍。但他们并非完全没问题，有些银行的商业模式就很脆弱。在上季度中，银行平均拿到了 9% 的利润，但最差的（当然，不包括 Credit Suisse）只拿到了 4%。外界很难知道有哪家有潜在风险。
“American banks are unequivocally much stronger,” says a bank boss. Few are making such statements about European banks, and certainly nobody is about Credit Suisse. The firm had a return on equity of minus 14% last quarter, its share price has tumbled and its market capitalisation is now just $12bn. Yet even Credit Suisse is not near a Lehman-style collapse. It holds 14% of its assets as capital and has debt worth only six times its equity. Although Credit Suisse credit-default swaps, which act like insurance against default, have leapt, they still suggest the chance of default is in the low to mid-single digits.
一家银行的老板说，美国银行毫无疑问的强大。欧洲银行就没人敢这么说，尤其是 Credit Suisse。在上一季度，公司的市盈率降低了 14%，股份严重下挫，市场规模仅有 120 亿美元。但 Credit Suisse 与当时的雷曼模式的崩溃并不一样。它持有占全部资产 14% 的资金，并且它的债务仅是自身市值的 6 倍。虽然 CS 在信用违约的边缘疯狂试探，看上去不是资不抵债就是违约，（在这种情况下）分析还认为违约的概率还只是个位数。
Big banks therefore head into the new era fortified. But the regulation that has strengthened their defences has also diminished their role. High capital demands make it hard for them to compete. Because banks must add risk weights to all kinds of assets, they now hold only the boring stuff. Leverage ratios constrain their size, even in the gilt markets. By contrast, financial institutions that are not systemically important are unencumbered by these rules.
The impact can be seen on balance sheets. In 2010, just after the financial crisis, banks held 227trn, a quarter more than the banks. Similarly, the share of American mortgages that came from banks was around 80% before the financial crisis. Today only around half of mortgages emerge from banks, and most of these are sold on to investors.
这些影响反映在资产负债表上。在经济危机刚刚结束的 2010 年，银行持有 11 万 5 千亿美元的金融资产。而其他金融机构，比如养老基金、保险公司和其他资产管理者，他们的账户体量是差不多的。而在近几年，非银行规模在增长。在 2020 年末，他们的资产市值为 22 万 7 千亿美元，比银行高四分之一。与之相似的是美国来自银行的抵押比例，在经济危机之前占 80%。而如今只有大约一半的紧急抵押（mortgages emerge）来自银行，其余的大部分则出投资者卖出。
The flight of risk
Thus the dodgy stuff is probably in other institutions. Which ones? In 2007 problems started in real estate. This time Americans hold far less mortgage debt, but the sheer pace of price growth in residential housing suggests some buyers will face difficulties. Indeed, three-quarters of those who bought in the past two years regret their decision. Other forms of real estate are also vulnerable. Firms are downsizing their offices to adapt to working from home, posing problems for highly leveraged commercial developers. Charles Bendit of Taconic Partners, a developer in New York, notes that lots have opted for floating-rate debt, meaning their debt-servicing costs have already doubled.
因此，风险可能出现在非银行的其他机构中。哪些呢？在 2007 年问题出现在房地产。那个时候美国人储蓄远小于抵押债务，但是居民住房价格却垂直上涨，这导致买家面临困境。事实上，过去两年间有四分三的购买者表示后悔他们的（购房）决定。而其他形式的房地产则呈现脆弱。公司缩小他们的办公室，并开始适应居家办公，用来迎合高杠杆的商业扩张。来自纽约开发公司 Taconic Partners 的 Charles Bendit 表示，许多人接受浮动利息的债务（九出十三归？），这表明他们的债务服务成本已然翻倍。
Michael Burry, who shot to fame in 2008 after shorting mortgage-backed securities, is concerned by unsecured consumer finance given the growth of “buy-now-pay-later” providers and the ease with which consumers have been able to tap credit-card lines. Goldman Sachs, a bank, ventured into consumer credit in 2019, helping to launch the Apple card. It now has a default rate of 3% over the past six months, unusually high even for sub-prime consumer lending. Ms Graseck of Morgan Stanley points out that, because this is an interest rate-shock driven cycle, trouble will probably first arrive in the loans that reprice to higher rates quickly: “Floating rate debt, like credit cards, is immediate, then commercial real estate, autos and eventually mortgages.”
在 2008 年因批评抵押导向的保险公司而名声大噪的 Michael Burry 担忧，”今天花明天的钱“的不安全的消费经济带来的增长已经花光了消费者的信用（和钱）。银行 Goldman Sachs 于 2019 年开始涉足消费贷款领域，帮助 Apple card 落地。在过去的 6 个月中，它的违约率已经达到了 3%，这个数值在次级消费市场贷款中十分不正常的高。来自 Morgan Stanley 的 Ms Graseck 指出，由于受到利率震惊周期（rate-shock driven cycle）的影响，最先感受到麻烦的很快会是借新债补旧债的人（the loans that reprice to higher rates quickly），原话是”浮动利率债，像信用卡这些，是马上能看到的，而接下来是商业地产，再到汽车，最终是所有抵押品“。
One of the fastest-growing parts of private credit has been that offered to software-service firms, notes Seth Bernstein, the boss of Alliance Bernstein, an asset manager. “These have been fantastic cash machines, because they have subscription models,” he explains. The cash flows they provide have been used to secure financing, meaning many firms are now highly leveraged. They have also never been tested in a downturn. Mr Bernstein compares the situation to the securitisation of housing debt, in that there is very little information or data available about the debt.
私人信用增长最快的部门是软件服务公司，说这话的是 Alliance Bernstein 资产管理公司的老大 Seth Bernstein。他解释道，这些人简直的美妙的印钞机器，因为他们有盈利模式。他们提供的现金流曾经为金融提供保障，这也意味着多数公司现在是高杠杆的。他们可没有经过什么”休克测试“（tested in a downturn）。Bernstein 与房屋债的保险进行了比较，我们对这些债务的已知信息和数据都很少。
It is companies more broadly that appear most at risk. They owe debts worth 80% of gdp, compared with 65% in 2007. A third of American corporate debt is rated bbb, the lowest investment-grade rating. Firms downgraded any further are no longer eligible for many investors’ portfolios. And defaults are now arriving. Bausch Health, a health-care provider, gave up the ghost on September 30th, taking the default rate for high-yield issuers above 1%, its highest since June 2020. Banks are struggling to offload debt they agreed to issue for corporate takeovers.
越来越多的公司开始显现危机。他们的债务规模达到了 GDP 的 80%，而在 2007 年这个数字还是 65%。有三分之一的美国公司债务被评级为 BBB，是投资指导的最低评级。要是再降低的话，就没有接受投资者投资的资格了。康复提供商 Bausch Health 就在 9 月 30 日提供了一个反而教材（gave up the ghost），它针对高收益投资的违约率达到了 1%，是自 2020 年 6 月以来的最高值。银行同意接管公司才算是挣扎着摆脱了债务。
Who holds these bad assets? Firms that have grown tremendously over the past fifteen years are the first place to look. Alternative assets, which include private equity, private debt, real estate and hedge funds, have grown from just 8% of total financial assets in 2006 to 15% now. They have taken paper losses of 11% on their investments this year, a much smaller fall than in the public markets. This might reflect sensible investment strategies—or an unwillingness to adjust to reality.
那么谁接手这些不良资产呢？过去 15 年时间里野蛮生长的公司是第一选择。而替代资产，包括私人股票、私人债务、地产和对冲基金这些，已经从 2006 年的占经济总量的 8% 达到了现在的 15%。今年，他们的纸面亏损达到投资总额的 11%，相比公开市场是很小的下挫。这也许预示着高度敏感的投资策略，或者是被迫的脱虚入实。（an unwillingness to adjust to reality）
Firms that have escaped the full weight of regulation are another place to look. The Financial Stability and Oversight Council (fsoc), an outfit established by America’s Treasury to watch important financial institutions, tried to claim oversight of the big insurance companies, including MetLife, aig and Prudential. But MetLife won a lawsuit to have the designation overturned, and the fsoc then rescinded its designations of the rest.
另外，脱离全面监管的公司是另一个选择。经济稳定和监督委员会（Financial Stability and Oversight Council），这是一家监督美国国债和重要经济机构的问题，试图开始监督大型保险公司，包括 MetLife，aig 和 Prudential。但 MetLife 打赢了推翻这项动议的官司，之后他们也撤回了对其他公司的动议。
If lots of investors are washed out, as they would be if a non-bank financial institution failed, well, “who cares?” quips one bank boss. Given reforms since the last financial crisis, it seems unlikely that governments would be called upon to intervene with bail-outs for institutions that are too big and too important to fail. The systemic institutions will survive another event like the blow-up of the hedge funds Archegos and lctm. But that does not make life any easier for central banks. It is their job to tighten policy enough to cool inflation without causing seriously disruptive activity in financial markets. And it is looking increasingly difficult to do both. ■
如果投资者被驱离了呢？当然当非银行金融机构失败后他们也会这样做。援引一位银行老板的原话，”管我啥事儿？“以上次金融危机以来的改革为鉴，想要让政府出面救市，来挽救那些过大而不能倒的机构是不太可能的。那些系统性机构能够从大型对冲基金，类似 Archegos 和 lctm ，的摧残中挺过来。但是央行的日子不会因此变得更好过。他们的责任就是收紧货币政策，从而控制通胀，并且不能过分地扰乱金融市场活动。现在看来，鱼和熊掌兼得的难度越来越大了。
OPEC defies Joe Biden with a big output cut
Will it backfire?
你能怎样？ 2DJW59X Silhouette Cranes Against Sky During Sunset Oct 5th 2022
The organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (opec) is sometimes called the oil market’s central bank. Every month the cartel and its allies, some 23 countries that produce 40% of the world’s oil, meet to decide on production targets. The aim is to keep prices high and stable. But just as central-bank governors argue about the speed of rate rises, members of opec+, as the wider group is known, disagree on how fast to turn the spigots.
石油输出国组织（OPEC），又称石油央行。石油卡特尔（Cartel） 及其盟友们，它们的规模是 23 个国家生产的石油满足世界石油需要的 40%，每个月碰面一次，决定下个月的产量。这样做的目的是保持石油价格在高位保持稳定。就像央行官员会为了增长速度吵个不停一样，OPEC 扩大组织（OPEC+）的成员们对于 ”挤出多少油” 这个问题的答案并不统一。
The latest summit on October 5th was a short one—but the decision that emerged was controversial. Ending a series of online meetings and timid tweaks to output, opec+—which includes Russia—met in person for the first time since the covid-19 pandemic. Emerging from a Viennese boardroom, ministers confirmed that they would cut production by 2m barrels a day (b/d), an amount equivalent to 2% of the world’s total output. After months of market volatility and missed targets, the cartel is determined to restore its credibility and regain control of the oil price.
他们 10 月 5 日的会晤非常短暂，但是决定却非常劲爆（controversial）。它结束了自新冠疫情以来的线上会议，并且一改之前惜字如金的情况，OPEC+（包括俄罗斯）进行了线下会面。他们在威尼斯的发布会表示，部长们确认他们将原油日产量降低 2 百万桶，约占全球总产量的 2%。 在连续几个月的市场波动和偏离目标之后，卡特尔决定恢复自己的权威（credibility），并重新掌握石油价格。
Members are worried about falling demand. Brent crude, the global benchmark, has dropped to 125 in June. Pricey petrol has led to lower consumption. Europe’s gas crunch, China’s covid policies and property troubles, and rising interest rates augur a global recession. The strong dollar, in which oil prices are denominated, makes the fuel still less affordable outside America. opec+ does not explicitly say so, but its members want a floor under the price at a time when increased spending at home implies a higher breakeven price. Experts place that floor at between 100, compared with 80 before covid.
成员担忧需求会降低。（那这个降低是不是因此呢？从这句话看不出来）布伦特国际原油价格（Brent crude）已经从今年 7 月的 125 美元每桶跌到了 93 美元每桶。 同时汽油价格上涨导致了消费低迷。（汽油属于轻质原油，但我没弄明白这个石油价格下跌为啥没有带动汽油价格一块跌？是不是他也没说清楚？）欧洲缺气，中国在抗疫（同时还略微有那么一丁点儿的地产问题），利息还在上升，这些导致全球性的经济衰退。由于石油价格是以美元计的，因此强势的美元导致美国之外的地区的能源价格就有点棘手。虽然 OPEC+ 没有直说，但它的成员显然希望给石油价格设一个下限，这样国内财政至少可以收支相抵。专家预测这个底限价格差不多是在 80 到 100 美元之间，而在疫情之前，这个价格是 70 到 80 美元。
The cartel has rarely had such an opportunity to set prices. No country outside of its biggest members has the capacity to ramp up output fast, and global stocks are low. Crude inventories in the oecd, a club of mostly rich countries, remain well below their five-year average; China is running down its stockpiles in a bid to satiate its thirsty refiners. The volume of oil on water may be rising, but that is only thanks to the longer tanker journeys that are required as the market adjusts to sanctions, rather than growth in floating storage, notes Giovanni Serio of Vitol, a trader.
对卡特尔来说，这是一个设置价格的千载难逢的好机会。你看，除了它的主要成员之外，其他国家都没有能力大幅提高产量，同时全球库存也处于低迷。富国俱乐部（OECD，a club of mostly rich countries）国家的库存低于他们的 5 年平均值；中国在去库存以满足他们饥渴的从业者。（这啥意思？）来自交易公司 Vitol 的 Giovanni Serio 表示，水上漂着的石油（oil on water）体量可能上升（其实就是正在船上运输的油），但这是由于市场对于制裁的调整动作导致石油运输线回升，并不是说浮在水上的仓库储量增加。
The problem opec+ faces is that its credibility is in tatters. Even the cut announced on October 5th is not what it seems. Its members have failed to invest in production, leading to a gap between target and actual output (see chart). In reality the cut will only apply to members that are hitting or are near to their targets. Ehsan Khoman of mufg, a bank, expects the revision to deliver a real cut of up to 1.1m b/d.
而 OPEC+ 所面临的问题是自己信守承诺的名声不怎么好。尽管 10 月 5 日嘴上说着一套，但上去并不是那么回事。它的成员国并没有落实到产能部门，这导致目标与实际产出之间有差距。事实上，这个产能削减只会作用到正在达到或靠近目标的成员国。来自 MUFG 银行的 Ehsan Khoman 表示希望达到的产能缩减最乐观能够达到 110 万桶每天。（这 TM 和目标差了快一倍）
The tactic is nevertheless working—at least for now. The oil price has risen by 11% since September 26th, when rumours of the cartel’s plans first emerged. That makes the reduction worthwhile even for Saudi Arabia, which will trim its output by 5%, but ought to benefit from an increase in price twice the size. Jorge León, a former opec analyst now at Rystad Energy, a consultancy, reckons that Brent could surpass $100 by the end of the year. After the meeting, the Saudi energy minister said that, unless the market changes, the supply curbs will remain until the end of 2023.
但这个声称的手段至少目前是生效了。自 9 月 26 日以来，首次有卡特尔（减产）计划的传言时，石油价格就提高了 11%。这样这个减产对沙特阿拉伯来说就非常值了，因为它减产了 5%，但利润却翻了一翻。一名供职于咨询公司 Rystad Energy 的前 OPEC 分析师 Jorge Leon 表示，布伦特原油价格今年年底有望超过 100 美元。在此次会议之后，沙特能源部长表示，除非市场变化，否则供应职能制措施会持续到 2023 年底。
But the decision is not without risk. opec+’s market share is yet to recover from huge cuts it made in 2020 to shore up prices amid a collapse in demand. Trimming production again may further erode the cartel’s market share. The cut is also a snub to President Joe Biden, who recently visited Saudi Arabia in an attempt to cajole it into pumping more, before tough midterm elections next month. He responded to the decision by sniffing that the cuts were “unnecessary”, and announcing that America would release another 10m barrels from its strategic reserve next month. The decision also provides fuel to nopec, a congressional bill that would allow the cartel to be sued under antitrust law, although it will have to overcome opposition from lawmakers and oil firms who fear retribution.
但这个决定并非没有风险。OPEC+在 2020 年的减产导致其市场份额遭到重挫，当时是在需求崩溃的条件下寻求涨价。此次减产会进一步侵蚀卡特尔的市场份额。此次减产也是打了美国总统拜登的脸，他近期，就在下个月艰难的中期选举的前夕，才访问沙特阿拉伯，试图劝诱其增加石油产量。他对减产决定嗤之以鼻，说它“没有必要”，他还声明美国下个月将从自己的能源储备中释放 1000 万桶原油。（这啥意思，先顶 10 天？）他还决定对 NOPEC （一个国会提案）提供帮助（provides fuel），它允许对卡特尔提起反托拉斯诉讼，虽然这个玩意肯定会遭到立法者的反对，并且石油公司也怕会被报复。
opec+’s loss in market share should be partly reversed when it eventually cranks up output again. Thus it is the decision’s impact on demand, with higher prices likely to further reduce consumer appetite, that will probably do more damage to opec+’s position. Cutting output in a tight market also creates more volatility, not less—the extra uncertainty will discourage investors and lenders, reducing liquidity in the paper oil markets.
OPEC+损失的市场份额可以通过之后再把产能涨回来而得到弥补。因此，它的影响主要还是在需求端，高价格会在进一步降低消费意愿，这可能会对 OPEC+ 的地位造成更严重的损害。而在紧缩的市场进行减产也会导致更大的波动，而不会抑制波动，这是因为额外的不确定性会吓跑投资者的贷款商，最终导致纸石油市场流动性降低。
The decision may also reignite diplomatic tensions within the cartel. Since quotas no longer reflect actual output, the latest cuts are being shouldered by just a handful of members—Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the uae—that were already prevented from producing quite as much as they ideally would. The uae, which secured a small increase in July but plans to expand its production capacity from 4m b/d today to 5m b/d in 2025, will almost certainly agitate for a rejig in future negotiations. This will be resisted by underperformers such as Angola and Nigeria, says Robin Mills of Qamar Energy, another consultancy, in the hope that they can one day rebuild their capacity.
这个决定也会重新点燃卡特尔内部的外交矛盾。由于报表不再能够代表真实产能，最终的减产只会落到部分成员国身上，比如伊拉克、科威特、沙特阿拉伯和阿联酋，这些国家已经获得了防止他们偷偷增产的警惕，因为他们是有先例的。（是，还打过仗呢，那叫海湾战争）特别是这个阿联酋，他们曾经保证在 7 月只少量增产，但却偷偷准备好了提高产量，现在可以日产 4 百万桶，并且在 2025 年能达到日产 5 百万桶，他们在未来的谈判中肯定会闹着重新分配份额。来自咨询公司 Qamar Energy 的 Robin Mills 表示，这肯定会导致安哥拉和尼日利亚这些目前表现欠佳者的抵制，（老实人啊），他们肯定会想着有朝一日也能重建自己的产能。
Ironically, Russia could offer the cartel a solution. The country has long been a staunch advocate for higher production. But its output is now likely to fall, both soon, as a result of a European embargo set to start in December, and in the long run, as sanctions prevent it from getting access to vital partners, people and parts. Saudi Arabia and the uae are in bed with “a weakening business partner”, says Karen Young of Columbia University. Russia will be reluctant to give away some of its quota. The question is whether, in a world where it has ever fewer friends, doing so is a price worth paying to remain inside the tent. ■
具有讽刺意味的是，俄罗斯肯定会完成卡特尔的任务。这个国家就一直闹着要增产。但它的出口却很有可能下跌，出于两个原因，首先在当下，欧洲计划于 12 月对它实行禁运，另外在长期，制裁使得他无法与重要伙伴、个人或部分达成交易。沙特和阿联酋和“不断虚弱的伙伴”同在一条船上，这样说的是来自 Columbia University 的 Karen Young。俄罗斯也肯定不愿放弃自己的份额。现在的问题是一个是或否的选择，在这个朋友越来越少的世界上，花钱呆在这个帐篷里是还是值得的？
The hunt for the weakest link in global finance
Credit Suisse won’t be the last firm to fall under the spotlight
Credit Suisse 不会是浮在台面上的最后一个倒霉蛋。
This photograph taken on May 6, 2022 shows a sign of Switzerland's second largest bank Credit Suisse on a branch's building next to a Swiss flag in downtown Geneva. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images) Oct 3rd 2022
As interest rates rise and asset prices slump, investors are scrambling to identify the weakest links in the global financial system. Every bear market produces national and corporate victims who get skewered. In the 1997-98 rout Thailand’s economy imploded, as did ltcm, a hedge fund. Iceland and Lehman Brothers were victims in the 2008-09 slump.
随着利息上涨和资产价格跳水，投资者开始蜂拥寻找那些与全球金融市场联系最薄弱的环节。每个牛市都得抓到某个倒霉的国家或公司当作受害者用来献祭。想想 97-98 年亚洲金融危机的被对冲基金整惨的泰国。再想想 08-09 年金融危机的冰岛和 Lehman Brothers。（是不是有那么点感觉了？）
Today one country has already been picked-off: Britain, where the currency has fallen and the central bank has had to intervene in the bond market to bail-out the pension system, whose overseers had foolishly made vast bets on continued low volatility. Now some believe an institutional victim of the great 2022 sell-off in markets has been spotted: Credit Suisse, a storied Swiss firm that spans wealth-and-asset management, private banking and investment banking.
现今，一个国家已经被选中了，那就是英国，英镑在贬值，他们的央行为了保住养老金系统不得不出手干预股市，他们的领导人竟然愚蠢到宁可豪赌地相信未来的波动不会太大。（这一看就是英国人自己写的）现在许多人开始相信他们猜到了伟大的 2022 年的祭品，Credit Suisse，这是一家传奇的瑞士公司，它涉及了财富和资产管理、私人银行和投资银行领域。
Its shares have fallen by 55% this year and its credit-default swaps, which measure default risk, have risen. These two red lights will be familiar to anyone who witnessed Wall Street firms struggling in 2008-09, as will the statements by Credit Suisse’s managers that the bank has a strong liquidity and capital position. This year’s version of a confidence scare at a bank comes with a new twist, too: a swirl of malicious, mad and made-up rumours on Twitter and elsewhere. Welcome to the too-big-to-fail problem in the social-media age.
它的股票今年跌了 55%，它的 credit-default swaps （不太明白具体是什么玩意，不过应该是资不抵债的意思）飙升，眼看着就要债务违约了。这两条红线嘛，目睹 08-09 年华尔街经济危机时公司的困境的人都明白是什么意思，尤其是当 CS 的负责出来声称他们有“充足的流动性和资产”的时候。（当时雷曼兄弟也是这么说的）今年的信心崩塌肯定少不了新的戏法：在推特和类似网站上的恶毒、疯狂和编造的流言漩涡。那句话怎么说来着，欢迎来到社交媒体时代的“太大而不能倒”问题环节。
So does the claim on the message boards that Credit Suisse is “next” make sense? At a high level the idea that a big bank, shadow bank or investment firm might be in trouble is plausible. The financial system has become habituated to 15 years of rock-bottom interest rates. The hunt for yield has led insurers and other funds to stuff portfolios with long-duration assets that are ultra-sensitive to rising rates. American banks have retreated from lending as regulations have grown tighter, and instead a system of market-based credit has emerged that deals in trillions of dollars of low-quality debt. There have been some medium-sized blowups already, including of Archegos, a hedge fund, and Greensill, a lender.
那么，在大字报上的“CS”要玩儿完的消息真的有用吗？可以比较肯定地说，一家大银行、影子银行或投资公司可能处于麻烦当中的想法是有说服力的。要知道，经济系统已经习惯了持续 15 年的低利率运行。在这个逐鹿的时代，保险公司和其他投资机构的口袋里装满了长期资产，这些东西对于利率升高非常敏感。美国银行已经从贷款业务中撤出了，因为监管越来越严格，取而代之的是基于市场的信用系统，这个系统操作着万亿美元规模的低质债务。在那里已经存在着许多“中等体量”的泡沫，典型的有 Archeqos（对冲基金）和 Greensill（贷款公司）。
Furthermore, Credit Suisse has been poorly run and struggling for some time. It has suffered repeated risk-management and compliance scandals, including being exposed to losses from Archegos and Greensill. Its top management ranks have been a revolving door.
回到我们的 CS，这个管理混乱的，长期陷于麻烦的宝贝儿。它需要反复进行公关管理和回应丑闻，包括被曝光在与 Archegos 和 Greensill 的交易中大量亏损。它的管理层走马灯似的，简直就是旋转门。
Yet in most other respects it does not look like the epicentre of a financial explosion in the way that, say, Lehman, or aig, an insurer, were. Instead of rampant growth fuelled by hubris, Credit Suisse’s balance sheet has shrunk continuously over the past decade in dollar terms, as it has downsized itself into the second tier of global finance. Today it is the 54th biggest listed financial firm in the world by assets.
但是，当我们跳出来看，CS 又不像是金融爆炸的震中，它不像当年的 Lehman 或 aig 那样。CS的发家之路不是充满自信的野蛮疯长，它的资产负债表在近 10 年时间内持续缩减，并且它已经自觉地减小了自己的体量，落到全球金融的第二梯队。今天，按照资产数量来计算的话，它位列全球金融公司的第 54 位。
Its problems are idiosyncratic and, to a degree, an expression of management caution rather than recklessness. It owns a sub-par investment banking unit that needs to be shrunk or shut down. Based on the second-quarter results this division eats up 30% of its risk-adjusted assets and has annualised costs of chf8bn ($8bn). It is largely to blame for the firm’s overall quarterly pre-tax loss of chf1.17bn and awful return on equity of minus 14%.
它的问题其实比较特殊，从某种意义上讲，它属于管理谨慎的而非无所顾及的。它拥有一个 sub-par 投行单位，这个单位需要减小规模或关闭。（这个 sub-par 是啥意思，我没看懂）根据第二季度的财报，这个部门占有了 30% 的需要进行风险调整的资产，年度运行成本约 80 亿美元。公司全季度的税前亏损为 117 亿美元，它占去一大部分，而它只产生了约 14% 的利润。
Bitter experience from firms such as Deutsche Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland teaches that shrinking an investment bank is a bit like decommissioning a nuclear reactor: dangerous and expensive. Star bankers leave and business dries up faster than you can cut costs and quit long-term contracts, leading to losses. Investors’ main concern has been that these potential losses might be so big that Credit Suisse would have to raise equity to ensure it had enough capital to support its ongoing businesses, which are fairly healthy.
缩减投资银行是有先例的，像 Deutsche 和 Royal Bank of Scotland 银行那样，缩减就像是关闭一座核电站：不仅危险，还很花钱。你缩减开支和退出长期合同的速度永远赶不上资深银行家离职的速度和业务干涸的速度，这些一定会导致亏损。投资人的主要担忧是这些潜在的亏损过于巨大，导致 CS 不得不依靠募集股权用来保证自己有充足的资金应付这些操作，而这个行为是健康的。（投资人心想：是，你是好了，我的股权也稀释了，那些个王八蛋捡了便宜）
Worries about financial firms can be self-fulfilling, as counterparties charge a higher risk-premium to lend to or deal with the firm, making it uncompetitive. In order to bring down its borrowing costs Credit Suisse will have to convince investors that it has a better proposal for shrinking its investment bank without incurring massive upfront losses. It plans to announce this on October 27th.
针对金融公司的担忧是很会自己吓自己的，竞争对手也会趁机提高与你合作的保费，你显得就没什么竞争力了。为了降低融资成本，CS 必须想办法说明投资者相信，他们有办法缩减自己的投资银行，并且这个过程不会导致无上限的损失。他们计划于今年 10 月 27 日公开这些计划。
But so far, at least, Credit Suisse is not an example of a business model which, in its spectacular excesses and implosion, encapsulates a broader madness in the markets. Instead it is an example of a relatively weak firm coming under pressure as financial conditions tighten and the economy flags. There will be many more of these, in many other industries. Meanwhile the hunt in the markets for “the big one” will go on. ■
但是，至少截至目前为止，CS 还不是一个能 in its spectacular excesses and implosion, encapsulates a broader madness in the markets（没懂什么意思，可能是说这种解燃眉于倒悬的事，他也没干过）。相反的，这倒是这样一个例子，一家相对弱小的公司如何在经济和金融紧缩的情况下处理压力。之后这种事情还会有很多，可能是发生在别的工业领域。同时，针对市场中的“庞然大物”们，这种事情还会继续。