A bolsa parece barata, afinal de contas

Não é bem que pareça barata à primeira vista. Mas com mais algum cuidado na análise, e levando em conta um ou outro factor que provavelmente queremos levar em conta, a ideia de que há uma bolha na bolsa americana parece menos razoável do que se supõe.

A tese da bolha está apoiada numa série de indicadores e rácios. Também está, diria eu, apoiada num preconceito do sector financeiro contra a política monetária actual (basta relembrar a polémica das taxas de juro “artificialmente baixas” – ver aqui e aqui). Mas por agora vamos concentrar-nos nos rácios, como este, que relaciona o preço das acções com os seus resultados:

123

O rácio entre os dois está ao nível atingido em 2007, mesmo antes do colapso, e bem acima da norma (sendo aqui a ‘norma’ o valor de 1980 a 1995). Tem cara de bolha.

Continuar a ler

Juros baixos, juros baixos até perder de vista

O World Economic Outlook de Outubro está aí, e a julgar pelo que li o Departamento de Investigação não se ressentiu da saída de Blanchard. O WEO continua tão útil e rigoroso como nos últimos anos, e tem – para além das habituais previsões macroeconómicas – um interessantíssimo estudo acerca da desinflação em curso nas economias avançadas: Global desinflation in an era of constrained monetary policy.

Não vou resumir aqui o estudo, que já inclui um sumário executivo muito completo para os mais preguiçosos. Mas queria dar nota de um gráfico impressionante, que compila as expectativas de mercado relativamente às taxas directoras dos principais bancos centrais e que mostra… bom, que mostra isto:

1 O primeiro quadro mostra a revisão das expectativas de mercado em relação ao comportamento da Reserva Federal. Em Setembro de 2013, o consenso apontava para a normalização rápida da Fed funds rate entre 2015 e 2016. Hoje, o mercado espera uma subida muito mais suave – apesar de a própria Fed anunciar que a coisa vai ser mais brusca  -, com a taxa directora a subir meio ponto percentual ao longo dos próximos três anos.

O segundo quadro compõe o ramalhete com as perspectivas actuais para as taxas do Bank of England e do BCE. O mercado espera que estas taxas de juro – negativas na Zona Euro e nos 0.25% no Reino Unido se mantenham a este nível até ao final da década.

Agora parem um pouco para pensar o que significa isto. Mesmo com a inflação baixa, entre 0,5 e 1,5%, estes valores representam taxas de juro reais negativas. Numa situação normal, taxas desta ordem de magnitude deveriam dar um impulso estrondoso ao investimento. Será assim tão difícil encontrar projectos que passem numa análise de custo-benefício em que a taxa de referência é negativa1? Mas qualquer pessoa que não tenha passado os últimos quatro anos em Marte sabe que prática, neste caso, não está a ser simpática para teoria.

E isto faz-me pensar no que dizia o Antonio Fatas há uns meses, num daqueles posts que o pessoal da macroeconomia devia mesmo, mesmo, mesmo ir ler. O post aborda as taxas de juro cobradas a soberanos, mas a ideia também é válida para as expectativas do mercado em relação às taxas directoras.

When 30 or even 50 year interest rates are negative or close to zero something is not right. Either this is the end of growth as we know it or the start of a 30-year period of extremely low inflation combined with deflation or our expectations are seriously off and we are up for an interesting surprise.

1 E sim, eu sei que a taxa directora não é igual à taxa de mercado cobrada à maioria das empresas, mas o princípio qualitativo é semelhante. E, nalguns casos (Alemanha, por exemplo), a questão é a mesma até em termos quantitativos: a taxa de juro real relevante é negativa.

Precisamos mesmo de uma união política para salvar o euro?

Já todos ouvimos dizer que uma união monetária sem uma união política está condenada (veja-se a Zona Euro). Será mesmo assim? António Fatas argumenta em Financial crisis, the euro and the need to political union que essa conclusão não é nada óbvia, e que a crise recente da Zona Euro não tem directamente a ver com a falta de um orçamento comum. Vale a pena ler (e, se gostarem, reler o velhinho Is a monetary union without a fiscal union doomed?).

There are plenty of example where the European Union (EU) requires some serious political consensus: the EU requires partial transfers of sovereignty to a supranational authority when it comes to legislation, the EU has economic mechanisms that imply a significant transfer of income across countries (via its budget, the structural and cohesion funds). Then why is it that the EU does not require to be backed by a political union in the same way the Euro project does?

(…)

The euro facilitated flows across countries as exchange rate risks had disappeared and provided the illusion of no risk. Second, once the flows had taken place it created financial links between banks and governments across countries that made them exposed to the same risk. In addition, the ECB because its connections with banks became a central repository of that risk and a solution for some of the countries facing a credit crunch — the ECB acted like the IMF in many ways.

None of this is exactly about monetary policy, even if the ECB is involved. This is about financial risk and how financial crises have painful economic consequences. When sharing a currency the risk of financial crisis and its potential solutions bring countries and governments together in a way that a political consensus seems to be necessary because transfers might be involved and because common political solutions need to be found. And while these transfers might be smaller than the ones agreed as part of the Social and Cohesion Funds of the European Union, they come as a surprise and they are uncertain (we cannot agree ex-ante on their final size). This is what makes the Euro project a much more difficult one to manage without a sense that we all belong to the same group and are willing to work on this together.

For many, the Euro was one of the projects within the much bigger ambition behind the European Union (which came with the idea of a partial political union). But the recent financial crisis has shown that the risks associated to sharing a currency when financial and sovereign crises are possible, are a lot larger than what we thought. And these risks are much larger than the risks associated to simply sharing the same currency and the same monetary policy (yes, one interest rate does not fit all but this is not the real issue this time).

Capitalismo

Um comentário interessante de Antonio Fatas à igualmente interessante recensão que Deirdre McCloskey fez ao bestseller de Piketty: Is 0% growth for 90% a successful economic model?

Very few, including Piketty, would disagree with the merits of capitalism. The fact that all advanced and prosperous economies have reached their current level of income by relying on markets, the fact that the fastest growing emerging markets are those that move closer to that model and by doing so are able to lift a large percentage of their population from below poverty levels, all speak up in favor of the power of markets and incentives to unleash growth.

But the debate cannot end up there. The success of capitalism as an economic model does not imply that we should accept current outcomes and that we should not discuss alternative models that, in comparison to other economic paradigms, might all look very similar but they could produce very different distributions of income. What Piketty and others have done is to raise awareness that since the early 80s, the economic model that we call capitalism has generated an outcome that is different from the one we had seen in the previous decades and that this outcome, in some countries, resemble what we saw before the Great Depression (…)

We all agree that the current economic model has allowed the income of many Americans to increase at a rate close to 2% for more than a century based on continuous productive accumulation of capital and innovation, an amazing success. But how would we think about the same economic model if this rate of growth slowed down and was very close to 0%? This would represent a big change in the economic outcome and would, for sure, raise concerns about why the model is failing to deliver relative to our expectations (that is the argument we use to call alternative models, like those of planned economies, a failure).

While it is true that GDP per capita growth has remained in line with historical experience over the last decades, the income of a large % of US households has either stopped growing or is growing at a rate much closer to 0% than to 2%. So if 0% growth for 100% of the population would represent a failure, what about 0% growth for 90% of the population? Regardless of how well capitalism has performed in the past, we need to open for a debate on the merits and outcomes of such a model that takes into account how the income and wealth that it generates gets distributed. There is no just one form of capitalism, there are many. Current tax rates, regulations are not set in stone and they are very different from what they were during many periods of the recent economic history so a debate on how inequality trends reflect on the successes and potential weaknesses of the current model is not only a healthy one but one that is needed.

One more comment regarding McCloskey’s review. While I said I did not want to go into the details of the review, there was one that I found very surprising. The review argues that while income inequality might have increased, consumption inequality is a lot lower. One of the reasons is that the actual consumption of those who own six houses is not that different from those who own one as you can only live in one house at a time. That’s an odd argument. If taken seriously it provides support from those on the “left” who argue for very high levels of taxation for the rich. Let’s tax 100% of the value of those 5 extra houses given that they are not providing any consumption or welfare to those who own them.