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谢国忠

谢国忠博客:只说出心中真相

 
 
 

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麻省理工学院经济学博士

个性介绍: 1960年出生于上海,1983年毕业于上海同济大学路桥系,1987年获麻省理工学院土木工程学硕士,1990年获麻省理工学院经济学博士。同年加入世界银行,担任经济分析员。在世行的五年时间,谢国忠所参与的项目涉及拉美、南亚及东亚地区,并负责处理该银行于印尼的工商业发展项目,以及其他亚太地区国家的电讯及电力发展项目。1995年,加入新加坡的Macquarie Bank,担任企业财务部的联席董事。1997年加入摩根士丹利,任亚太区经济学家,2006年9月辞去该职务。

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谢国忠:运气没了  

2008-12-20 21:42:01|  分类: 言论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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运气用完了

Out of luck /




Afung shui master told me: "We have offended '8', always putting so muchpressure on it to deliver. It's fed up and is taking revenge on us.This is why 2008 is so bad." This must be the most creative explanationfor this annus horribilis. It will be remembered as the year that richpeople become poor, en masse; US$50 trillion of paper wealth hasvanished, often in unusually creative ways.

With the benefitof hindsight, it seemed that the rich and famous were competing to seewho could lose money faster. A bewildering array of derivativesexploded violently before investment banks could make margin calls, toturn billionaires into negative billionaires.

Take theaccumulator - also known as the "I'll kill you later" - financialderivative. It is merely a long volatility contract. So many pouredborrowed money into the product that the volatility price collapsed -that is, buyers were sucked into a bubble of their own. Most of theHong Kong upper crust may have lost big bucks in this folly. They areknown for being stingy and not trusting even blood relatives with theirmoney. So why did they fall for accumulators? Maybe they felt lucky in2008.

Take the accumulator - also known as the "I'll kill youlater" - financial derivative. It is merely a long volatility contract.So many poured borrowed money into the product that the volatilityprice collapsed - that is, buyers were sucked into a bubble of theirown. Most of the Hong Kong upper crust may have lost big bucks in thisfolly. They are known for being stingy and not trusting even bloodrelatives with their money. So why did they fall for accumulators?Maybe they felt lucky in 2008.

The performance of shareslately appears to have an inverse correlation to the number of eightsin the tickers. Last year's initial public offerings tried to squeezeas many eights into their tickers as possible. They were marketed likePrada bags. With famous chief executives and other big-name financialfigures backing them, the IPOs came with an aura that one "couldn'tlose". Unfortunately, if you bought into them, your wealth will besmaller now. The stock offerings made only the chief executives andtheir financial backers rich. And yes, their bankers got bonuses, too.

Youmay think cheating investors is the most immoral path to wealth.Actually, bribing government officials, not repaying bank loans orselling poisonous food seem equally bad. I am sure there are manyeights in the amounts of bribes and loans. Even the prices of poisonousmilk products may have had a few eights in them. But the lucky numbersdidn't stop children dying.

Casinos are more honourable: theyat least give better odds. Macau blasted past Las Vegas in gamblingrevenue last year. The market capitalisation of one casino was biggerthan the gross domestic product of Macau itself. The good times keptrolling - until 2008 hit.

Casinos have used the number eightmost liberally; it is plastered on walls and gaming tables. Maybe eightis especially angry with them. But at least Macau had it good for awhile. Poor Singapore is stuck with unfinished casinos; all cost and norevenue. Even so, the unfinished casinos are still there, and they maypay something back, in the next bubble, better than shares ininvestment banks.

Now 2008 is going out with a big bang in theform of the Bernard Madoff US$50 billion scam. It seems the best andthe brightest are among the victims, as are some of the most augustfinancial institutions. This is more spectacular than the failures ofBear Sterns, Lehman Brothers and the like. Those eminent financialinstitutions needed elaborate theories, models, whizz kids and tens ofthousands of MBAs. Mr Madoff did it all by himself, and he's an oldman, too. Indeed, he outsmarted the Wall Street whizz kids who connedpeople all over the world to get their bonuses; Mr Madoff got theirbonuses. But, in the end, eight got him.

A big shadow was oncecast by US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan - so big that manycrooks thrived under it. After he walked away, they have been busyfinding new shade. But they ran out of time in 2008; eight got them,too. Well, not all of them: I still see many struggling to hold on,waiting for government bailouts.

But there is a silver lininghere, too: all the eights at the Beijing Olympics paid off. China wonthe most gold medals. That is a huge thing, and it gives China a lot offace. If the nation doesn't win as many golds in the next Games, it'sOK - we will always have 2008. Maybe eight shouldn't retire, after all.

What about nine? Will 2009 bring better luck? Historically, thenumber nine carries an unusual significance in Chinese culture. Luckyeight is a Cantonese fixation that has gone national and overwhelmednine. Maybe nine can stage a comeback. Heaven, they say, has ninelevels. But hell is supposed to have 18 levels - or nine times two -which takes some steam out of it. I suppose nine needs to be tested.

If2009 turns out to be a good year, nine will gain prominence: Macau'scasinos may plaster the number all over their walls and gaming tables,replacing eight.

I think the first quarter of 2009 will bevery chilly. Companies will report horrific earnings for the fourthquarter of 2008. The current euphoria over the effectiveness ofgovernment stimulus packages may cool, and the second quarter may notbe much better. The global economy will still be contracting in thefirst quarter, and the news then won't be that good.

It mayfeel much better by the middle of next year. The impact of governmentstimulus, especially in China and the United States, will be feltpalpably. Inflation is not yet a serious issue. Central banks couldstill keep their super-low interest rates. The euphoria may return, butonly temporarily. By late 2009, we will be worrying about inflation andrising interest rates in a still-weak global economy. Pessimism willreturn.

The world has caught a chronic disease. It feelsbetter from time to time after taking medicine, but lapses back intopain soon after. The real recovery will occur only when all theexcesses have been washed away with time, and structural reforms haveestablished a new growth model for the global economy. That won'thappen in 2009. If nine doesn't succeed, which number will volunteer totry next?

Andy Xie is an independent economist

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