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    在经济指标总体上健康运行的情况下,日前在美国华盛顿特区美国企业研究所(American Enterprise Institute, AEI)内进行的一场对话着实引人注目。2月21日,AEI常驻研究员Desmond Kachman, 哈佛大学肯尼迪学院教授Carmen Reinhart在讨论全球金融市场风险时对债务水平和杠杆贷款风险提出了警告。


    Lachman认为公司债务情况已经“破表(off the charts)”,这是由于信贷风险的错误定价导致的。即使政策制定者不得不对此进行干预,由于他们往往缺乏灵活性而使情况雪上加霜。


    Reinhart教授曾与Kenneth Rogoff合著了讲述后金融危机历史的《这次不一样 (This Time is Different)》。他和绝大多数经济学家都认为美国经济衰退并非迫在眉睫。美国全国商业经济协会(National Association for Business Economics)在1月30日至2月8日进行的一项调查显示,10%的协会成员预计衰退可能在2019年出现,42%认为会在2020年25%认为是2021年




    2月21日美国联邦存款保险公司(Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., FDIC)发布的“季度银行业概况”或许能反映一些市场情况。 2018年第四季度,美国受保机构的净收入总额接近创纪录的591亿美元。然而,FDIC主席Jelena McWilliams指出:“在低利率和竞争日益激烈的贷款环境下,一些机构即使能达到收益率,近期收益率曲线放缓可能会给贷款和融资带来新的挑战。因此,银行必须对这些风险进行审慎管理才能对这个经济周期提供足够的贷款支持。”





    Such signals are not the first of their kind. Regulators and central bankers have been increasingly insistent in recent months in calling attention to higher-yielding, often below-investment-grade leveraged lending.


    Total outstanding leveraged loans and high-yield bonds in Europe and the U.S. have doubled, to about $2.65 trillion, since the financial crisis, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

    As noted in a Bloomberg report, at the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee's September meeting, “some officials said the growth of leveraged loans and looser standards present ‘possible risks to financial stability.’”

    Then-U.S. Treasury Department chief risk officer and Office of Financial Researchacting director Ken Phelan wrote in his letter accompanying the OFR's annual report last November that overall credit risk, on balance, was moderate, “with risk rising from leveraged lending, tempered somewhat by risks from consumer credit.”






    The body of the OFR annual report went into more detail:

    “Rapid growth in leveraged lending is a concern . . . With the growth in leveraged lending has come a deterioration in the credit quality of newly issued loans. One sign of this decline is the high share of covenant-lite loans [see graph]. Covenants are restrictions placed on debt-issuing firms meant to increase the likelihood of payment. Another sign of deterioration in underwriting quality is that more than half of all leveraged loans issued are rated B+ or lower (that is, highly speculative).”

    A participant in the February 12 AEI panel discussion, just after departing the Treasury, Phelan noted thatleveraged corporate debt has nearly doubled in a little more than a decade, to $1.5 trillion, and thenumber of corporations with leveraged debt has risen to 1,500, from 800 in 2012.

    Government borrowing did not escape Phelan's critique: “We don't have a sustainable way to finance our debt.”






    In a wide-ranging global outlook speech at a February Financial Times event, Bank of England governor and former Financial Stability Board chairman Mark Carney noted that with the reversal in monetary-policy accommodation, “after five years in which there was no new net issuance of G7 government debt,new government borrowing outweighed central bank purchases by more than $1 trillion for the first time since 2012.”

    “Potentially more seriously,” Carney went on, “the slowing in global momentum may also be the product of rising trade tensions and growing policy uncertainty . . . If all measures contemplated are implemented, average U.S. tariffs will reach rates not seen in half a century.”

    The central banker acknowledged that “some are beginning to wonder whether the global expansion, begun in 2010, could be starting to end,” and then dug into the topic of corporate debt: “more of a concern, particularly in the U.S.” He noted that “relative to earnings, aggregate corporate debt in the U.S. and U.K. is nearing pre-crisis peaks, and the share of highly levered companies in the U.K. is above pre-crisis levels “despite the very modest growth in investment.

    “Globally, the average quality of corporate borrowers has deteriorated materially,” Carney said. “The share of lower-rated debt in global corporate bond markets has increased significantly over the last 10 years, with BBB-rated bonds now about half of the market, compared to just a quarter in 2007.”






    Carney said that the global leveraged lending market's 21% growth in 2018 was faster than that of U.S. subprime mortgages in the run-up to the global financial crisis. “At $2.3 trillion,” he said, “the stock of outstanding leveraged loans is double that of subprime in 2007 . . . 60% of leveraged loans are now covenant-light, and most deals have substantial ‘add backs’ of EBITDA. These are developments analogous to the ‘No Doc/No Income’ heyday of U.S. subprime.”

    One additional parallel: “growth in leveraged loans has been increasingly driven by securitization.” But, Carney concluded, “the main holders of leveraged loans can generally bear the risks,” and the core of the financial sector is more resilient: “Banks in most regions are now more likely to be stabilizers rather than amplifiers of shocks. Regulation has made banks less complex and more focused. They lend more to the real economy and less to each other. Trading assets have been cut in half, andinterbank lending is down by one-third.”

    He described it as “a judgment, not a guarantee” that “global growth is more likely than not to stabilize eventually around its new, modest trend . . . The world is in a delicate equilibrium. Productivity is weak everywhere. The sustainability of debt burdens depends on interest rates remaining low and global trade remaining open. And business and consumer confidence are being buffeted by extreme policy uncertainty.”

    He came back to subprime mortgages and how “they eventually grew unchecked” until those written in 2006 and 2007 “were twice as likely to default as those originated just a few years earlier. It is just such a descent from responsible to reckless underwriting that we must avoid today.”

    Two AEI panelists were openly skeptical of crisis response and management by a more unilateral U.S. Desmond Lachman said that the Trump administration “has gone out of its way to burn the bridges with the countries we need to deal with. Speed is of the essence.”

    William White, past chair of the Economic and Development Review Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said, “We haven't succeeded in crisis prevention. We need crisis management more than ever.”