chrislau2001 发表于 2008-9-12 08:40:39 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
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Europe Shuns US-Style Stimulus Steps

Sharply lower growth forecasts underscored fears Europe may be slipping into recession this year, but that hasn't prompted many European policy makers to try U.S.-style stimulus policies.

For much of the past year, many economists and investors expected the U.S. to fall into recession, while it appeared much of Europe might avoid one. That hasn't happened. Growth in the 15 countries that share the euro currency contracted in the second quarter, the first contraction since the early 1990s. A big part of the problem is the fallout from financial turmoil that began with U.S. mortgage-related securities.

The U.S. economy meanwhile surged by an annualized 3.3% in the second quarter, buoyed by government intervention and a weak dollar that spurred export growth.

The prospect of recession -- generally defined as two consecutive quarters of declining economic output -- prompted the Federal Reserve to slash interest rates and Congress to pass a $168 billion stimulus package. Most economists say those actions helped cushion the blows from a housing bust, credit crunch and skyrocketing energy prices.

But institutional and cultural constraints make it hard for Europe to try something similar. The European Central Bank has a single mandate to keep prices steady -- a legacy it inherited from Germany's central bank, which was determined to avoid a repeat of the hyperinflation of the 1920s. The U.S. Federal Reserve, by contrast, is responsible both for supporting growth and controlling inflation.

Euro-zone countries also agree to adhere to fiscal rules that limit budget deficits to 3% of gross domestic product. While the rules discourage big debt buildups, they also limit policy makers' scope to stoke growth with tax cuts or rebates.

'The world's been hit by massive shocks, so everyone should slow down,' said Erik Nielsen, an economist with Goldman Sachs in London. 'But the U.S. has absolutely thrown the kitchen sink at the problem.'

Dismal European growth forecasts Wednesday underscored the rising recession risk. Quarterly economic forecasts from the European Commission project annual euro-zone growth this year at 1.3%, half its 2007 rate and below April forecasts of 1.7%. Outright recessions in Germany and Spain, coupled with stagnation in France and Italy, will bring third-quarter economic growth across the bloc to a standstill, according to the forecasts. The U.K., which doesn't use the euro, will also see a recession starting in the third quarter, the forecasts say, as a collapsing housing market continues to damp consumption and investment.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who leads a committee of euro-zone finance ministers, said the bloc could see a 'technical recession' and called the situation 'serious.'European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet declined to forecast a recession. He reiterated that the central bank expects the bloc's economy to bottom out this year before staging a gradual recovery. Tackling inflation, which at 3.8% in August was well above the central bank's preferred range of just below 2%, remains policy makers' priority because they believe rising prices threaten longer-term growth.

A euro-zone recession would make it harder for the U.S. economy to keep expanding. Before the euro-zone economy started stumbling, it was boosting sales growth and profits for U.S. and Asian companies. The weak dollar has boosted U.S. exports to Europe.

The U.S. economy contracted slightly in the fourth quarter of 2007 and barely grew in the first three months of this year. The Fed has cut interest rates to 2% from 5.25% a year ago, and isn't likely to increase rates until sometime next year despite concerns about inflation. Democrats are pushing a $50 billion stimulus package in Congress. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is urging one that is twice as large. Republican standard-bearer John McCain hasn't signed on, but he is pushing a big reduction in corporate taxes.

In Europe, monetary policy makers remain focused on inflation. ECB policy makers raised their key rate to a seven-year high of 4.25% in July. ECB watchers predict inflation fears will keep the ECB on hold through year-end before softening growth pushes policy makers into interest-rate cuts in the middle of next year.

Spain, which is suffering a steep slowdown as a decade-long housing bubble bursts, has broken the European mold by embarking on a U.S.-style stimulus program. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero Wednesday pledged an additional 3 billion euros ($4.23 billion) in public financing to help home builders refinance existing loans.

Joellen Perry / Sudeep Reddy

 楼主| chrislau2001 发表于 2008-9-12 08:40:56 | 显示全部楼层




不过,体制以及文化上的约束却使欧洲难以效仿美国。欧洲央行(European Central Bank)的唯一使命就是保持物价稳定,这个秉承自德国央行的任务令它一心想要避免重演上世纪二十年代的高通胀景象。相比之下,Fed的任务不仅在于抑制通胀,也包括促进经济增长。


高盛集团(Goldman Sachs)驻伦敦的经济学家艾瑞克•尼尔森(Erik Nielsen)指出,世界已经接二连三遭遇冲击,因此大家应该慢下脚步,可美国却在不遗余力地避免经济增长放缓。


卢森堡首相、欧元区财长委员会主席容克(Jean-Claude Juncker)表示,欧盟将出现技术性衰退,并称这样的局面十分严峻。欧洲央行行长特里谢(Jean-Claude Trichet)拒绝预测欧洲经济是否会陷入衰退。他重申按照欧洲央行的预测,欧洲经济今年将走入谷底,之后将逐步复苏。而应对通胀依然是欧盟决策者们优先考虑的问题,因为他们认为物价上涨将会威胁到经济的长期增长。8月份3.8%的通胀率仍远远高于欧洲央行认为满意的略低于2%的水平。


去年第四季度,美国经济出现轻度萎缩,今年前三个月也几乎停滞不前。Fed如今已将利率从一年前的5.25%下调至2%,而尽管仍担心通货膨胀,但Fed在明年某个时间之前却不大可能加息。民主党人向国会提交了500亿美元的经济刺激方案,民主党总统候选人奥巴马(Barack Obama)则在敦促通过一项数额两倍于此的刺激方案。共和党总统候选人麦凯恩(John McCain)虽没有明确表态,但却提倡大幅削减企业税。


随着延续了十年的楼市泡沫终于破灭,西班牙经济显著放缓,这促使西班牙打破欧洲传统模式,推出了美国式的经济刺激方案。西班牙首相萨帕特罗(Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero)周三承诺追加30亿欧元(约合42.3亿美元)的公共财政资金,用于帮助建房商为现有贷款再融资。

Joellen Perry / Sudeep Reddy
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