jueves, 11 de febrero de 2016

Federal Reserve Won’t Backpedal on Interest Rates, Janet Yellen Says.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve and financial markets are having a difference of opinion.

The Fed expects the domestic economy to keep chugging along. Investors fear a global downturn.

The Fed says it is still thinking about raising its benchmark interest rate again as soon as March. Investors are betting the Fed will not move before 2017.

The split-screen divide was on display Thursday, as the Fed’s chairwoman, Janet L. Yellen, delivered a relatively upbeat assessment to the Senate Banking Committee while investors were dumping stocks and shoveling money into safe havens like government debt and gold. The Dow Jones industrial average finished the day down nearly 255 points, or 1.6 percent.

“A lot has happened” since December, when the Fed predicted it would spend 2016 gradually raising interest rates, Ms. Yellen acknowledged. And risk-averse investors could disrupt slow-and-steady economic growth, she allowed.

But her tone was far from bleak. Asked about the risk of a recession, Ms. Yellen responded that anything is possible but “expansions don’t die of old age.” She made clear that Fed officials were still debating when, not whether, they should raise rates again.

“We will meet in March, and our committee will carefully deliberate about what impact these developments have had,” Ms. Yellen told Congress and the cameras, referring to the market turmoil and next month’s meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. “Today I think it’s premature to render a judgment.”

But economic jitters are shaping the questions Ms. Yellen is facing, as retirement accounts shrink and investors’ stomachs churn. Pressed by Senator Dean Heller, Republican of Nevada, Ms. Yellen said she did not think the Fed had contributed significantly to the convulsions in financial markets by its December decision to raise its benchmark interest rate for the first time since the financial crisis.

“I don’t think it’s mainly our policy,” she told Mr. Heller.

But some analysts say the Fed is playing a role. They worry that the Fed, and its counterparts around the world, either cannot or will not move to shore up growth. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has lost 10 percent of its value this year, closing Thursday at 1,829.08. The price of the benchmark 10-year Treasury climbed to the highest level since 2012.

“It seems central banks have reached the end of road,” said Markus Schomer, the chief economist at PineBridge Investments in New York. “No support for scared financial markets here.”

The price of fed funds futures, bets on the future level of the Fed’s benchmark rate, now reflect roughly a 10 percent chance the Fed will raise rates this year. That means investors don’t expect the Fed to make things worse. But they see little prospect that the Fed will expand its efforts.

Indeed, Ms. Yellen told Congress on Thursday that the Fed did not intend to cut rates back to zero.

She also continued to play down the possibility that the Fed would seek to provide an additional jolt of stimulus by imposing negative interest rates — basically reversing the normal order of things so that lenders pay a fee for lending while borrowers collect a fee for borrowing.

A growing number of central banks, including the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan, have turned to negative rates to supplement standard measures. Sweden’s central bank said Thursday it would push its benchmark rate even further below zero, to negative 0.5 percent.

Ms. Yellen surprised some members of the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday when she testified that the Fed had not considered the idea in detail. On Thursday she was slightly less dismissive, telling senators the Fed was reviewing the issue, but emphasizing again that she did not foresee a need for negative rates in the United States.

“I wouldn’t take those off the table, but we would have work to do to judge whether they would be workable here,” she said.

There are reasons for economic optimism. Ms. Yellen pointed to the strength of consumer spending and said she still expected lower oil prices to stimulate growth. The magnitude of the decline in prices took the Fed by surprise, and the costs have been larger than expected, but Ms. Yellen said the Fed still expected the average household to reap a benefit of about $1,000.

Ms. Yellen also played down some reasons for pessimism. She has previously pointed to stronger wage growth as an important sign that the economy is improving, and on Thursday she said that she was not overly impressed by signs of acceleration in the recent data. “At best the evidence of a pickup is tentative,” she said.

But in an exchange with Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, Ms. Yellen also appeared to back away from her previous emphasis on that indicator.

“I would not say that wage growth is a litmus test for changes in monetary policy,” Ms. Yellen said.

Republicans and Democrats sparred with Ms. Yellen over the Fed’s ability to improve economic conditions, but the tone of the hearing was significantly less confrontational than her appearance Wednesday before the House committee.

Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, emphasized that a crucial reason for the slow pace of economic growth in recent years was the relatively slow growth of productivity, or the economic output of the average worker.

“Does monetary policy affect workers’ knowledge or skills?” he asked Ms. Yellen.

As she began to answer, he interjected, “The answer is no.”

“It’s a ridiculous notion, is it not?” he continued. “That’s our job.”

He meant that Congress could improve productivity by effective investment in areas like education or by changing the tax code to encourage innovation.

Ms. Yellen said she generally agreed, but she noted that the Fed did have a role to play by encouraging economic growth. Companies curtail investments during downturns, and workers without jobs begin to lose their skills.

Asked by Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, what more the Fed could do to reduce long-term unemployment, she emphasized the point.

“What we are trying to do to contribute to the solution of that problem is to keep the economy growing at a steady pace, to keep the labor market improving, in the hope and expectation that a stronger labor market will improve the status of all groups,” she said.

Yet Ms. Yellen disappointed Democrats too by suggesting that in her view the Fed was doing enough. She reiterated the Fed’s position that it was necessary to raise interest rates to maintain control of inflation as job growth continued.

“I see it just the other way,” Mr. Schumer said. “I am less worried about inflation and more worried about slow wage growth.”

The New Times.

sábado, 6 de febrero de 2016

Alphabet, Google’s Parent Company, Grows Briskly to Close In on Apple.

Wall Street got its first glimpse of the financial details of a new conglomerate called Alphabet on Monday. Investors liked what they saw so much that the outfit formerly known as Google is poised to become the world’s most valuable company. Despite spending $3.6 billion a year on projects like self-driving cars that don’t make much money, Alphabet’s advertising business propelled the company to a strong last three months of 2015, outpacing expectations and sending the stock up in after-hours trading. Now, when Wall Street opens for business on Tuesday, Alphabet will most likely be worth more than Apple, which has been the most valuable company in the world for nearly four years. Apple is still generating enviable profits but is dealing with concerns that its franchise iPhone business is slowing down. If investors are sending any sort of signal to big tech companies, which have taken their lumps from shareholders this year, it is simply this: You are free to spend on side projects so long as your main business is not showing signs of weakness.“The main thing is the core business,” said Josh Spencer, who manages T. Rowe Price’s Global Technology Fund. The results were the first foray of Alphabet, which unveiled its reorganization plan last summer, into segment reporting. That means that for the first time the company is letting investors see its search and advertising businesses — now a subsidiary called Google Inc. — next to the costs of the various projects like self-driving cars, which generate a lot of talk but not much money. Alphabet’s total revenue, barring currency fluctuations, increased 24 percent to $21.3 billion, when compared with the same period in 2014. Analysts will spend the next few days using those results to rejigger the models they use to rate Alphabet’s stock. In a conference call to discuss the results, they found innumerable ways to ask two simple questions:  How fast is the traditional Google business growing, and how much of its money will be funneled toward “moonshot” projects like self-driving cars and drones that deliver packages?
The revenue rise was attributed to strong growth in mobile search and YouTube, which is significant because investors had long been looking for signs that the core search business was making a smooth transition from desktop computers to mobile phones, and that YouTube was becoming a driver of new growth. “Above all, our Q4 results show the great momentum and opportunity we have in mobile search and across Google’s range of businesses,” said Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of the Google business, during the call. Net income was $4.9 billion versus $4.7 billion for the same period a year ago, beating Wall Street expectations. The company said its “other bets” category — the moonshots — had revenue of $448 million. Shares of Alphabet were up more than 5 percent in after-hours trading. Google was notorious for its indifference to Wall Street. But Alphabet has been a model student, reining in its expenses, using $5 billion of its $73 billion cash hoard to repurchase company stock and, with this latest report, giving investors more insight into how Google’s core business is performing. The new disclosures, combined with its more investor-friendly tone and, of course, continued strong growth in its advertising business, are the main reasons Alphabet stock has jumped 43 percent from a year ago, putting it neck and neck with Apple as the most valuable company in the worldIn fact, many Alphabet investors are hoping that merely disclosing new information will give the stock price an extra lift. In a recent report, Mark Mahaney, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, called segment reporting “the most identifiable near-term catalyst in Internet land,” which is to say that when companies give investors more information, it makes them more eager to buy in. The benefit of segment reporting for Alphabet and other high-growth Internet companies is that when investors are allowed to take an unvarnished look at how profitable one side of the business is, it tends to make them more forgiving of losses elsewhere. Or at least that was what happened with Amazon, which recently began separating its retail operations from the results of its highly profitable cloud computing business, and Netflix, which used segment reporting to show investors that while it might be losing money internationally, its North American streaming business is doing well. Mr. Spence, of T. Rowe Price, which holds Alphabet shares, said he had been happy with Alphabet’s progress but wanted the company to give back more of its cash pile to investors. “I would like to see more developments in terms of capital return, but not this year,” he said. “Baby steps with this company. ”Of course, the reality is that, in revenue terms, nothing about Alphabet’s business has changed. Google began 2015 as a giant advertising company connected to a collection of intriguing science projects. Alphabet ended the year as a collection of intriguing science projects connected to a highly profitable advertising business. Advertising continues to account for the lion’s share of the company’s revenue, and search advertising is about three-quarters of total revenue, according to estimates by Mr. Mahaney. For now, most everything investors are excited about also has to do with advertising. This includes YouTube, whose annual revenue is now estimated at somewhere from $4 billion to $8 billion, and the Google Play store, Google’s mobile app store, which takes a cut of app revenue but recently started selling in-store advertisements. “For a company of this size to continue to be able to grow at 20 percent a year — that’s pretty remarkable,” said Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Securities. What about those other bets, like the self-driving car? Right now they are just big losses. For investors, then, this report was less about the future than it was about reassuring them that the old Google is continuing to grow quickly, and that other products like YouTube are going to pick up the growth when search advertising starts to mature. If one of the moonshots should work out, then great. Cherry on top.

Continue reading the ma

 The New York Times.

sábado, 24 de octubre de 2015

Dolarización en Venezuela. (II)

22 DE OCTUBRE 2015 - 12:01 AM

Nos preguntábamos en el artículo anterior si a Venezuela le conviene o no dolarizar su economía. Para responder esa interrogante hay que tener presente, entre muchas cosas, su alta dependencia del ingreso petrolero, su escasa diversificación productiva y exportadora, y sus graves problemas de desequilibrios macroeconómicos, altísima y creciente inflación, recesión, escasez, bajas reservas externas, empobrecimiento, alta dependencia del suministro externo, deterioro laboral y menor calidad de vida, calamidades que se han agravado por el reciente desplome de los precios petroleros.
Por ello, la primera prioridad que hoy existe es la implementación de un complejo plan de ajuste orientado a afrontar esas adversidades con el fin de sanear la economía, plan que tendrá que incluir, entre muchas otras cosas, una profunda corrección cambiaria. Ese ajuste, inevitablemente, acarreará grandes sacrificios, pero su implementación será una necesidad para poner la casa en orden, condición de base para poder enrumbar al país en la senda del desarrollo sustentable. Ese nuevo rumbo debe buscar, entre sus objetivos básicos, la mejora en la calidad de vida y la inclusión social, para lo cual es necesario preservar los equilibrios macroeconómicos, reducir la dependencia de la renta petrolera, y diversificar la economía. Eso, a su vez, exige la reinstitucionalización del país, la preservación del Estado de Derecho, la división e independencia de los poderes públicos, la existencia de reglas de juego claras, creíbles y sustentables, y el manejo responsable de la cosa pública.
De implantarse la dolarización, después del impactante ajuste de precios causado por la devaluación inicial implícita en la conversión monetaria, en los años subsiguientes la inflación cedería notoriamente, pero muy probablemente se mantendría por encima del promedio global y de la del mundo industrializado, lo cual minaría la competitividad de las industrias locales, dificultando la diversificación productiva y de exportaciones, al no poder utilizarse el mecanismo cambiario con el fin de coadyuvar a mantener aquella competitividad.
Igualmente, la vulnerabilidad de la economía a bajos precios petroleros, o a sus caídas abruptas, sería mucho mayor en un esquema de dolarización, al no existir la posibilidad de implementar medidas cambiarias y monetarias que mitiguen los efectos de aquella adversidad petrolera. Las menores exportaciones generarían una estrechez de liquidez, mayores tasas de interés y reducción de los ingresos del sector público, generando o agravando desequilibrios fiscales, monetarios y financieros, así como efectos recesivos en la economía. Ante la imposibilidad de aplicar correctivos monetarios y cambiarios, y no contarse con abundantes fondos de estabilización previamente acumulados, las autoridades seguramente optarían por la expansión del gasto público deficitario y la busca de financiamiento externo, y eventualmente por la emisión de obligaciones a ser adquiridas conminatoriamente por los bancos con sus fondos de reserva. Ello, combinado con la pérdida de depósitos debido a la fuga de capitales producida por el deterioro de las expectativas, y con el aumento de la morosidad de la cartera de créditos debido a las mayores tasas de interés, podría poner a la banca en una situación muy difícil, máxime si esta no puede acceder al auxilio financiero del banco central.
Como se ve, las rigideces generadas por la dolarización podrían obstaculizar el logro de la diversificación económica, la disminución del rentismo petrolero y el desarrollo sustentable. Por ello creo que una vía mucho más conveniente y efectiva es la que ha sido seguida por otros países de la región, que han abatido severos problemas inflacionarios, han saneado sus economías y están en mejores condiciones de afrontar las adversidades externas, sin caer en las rigideces de la dolarización, de la cual es muy difícil o casi imposible salir, una vez que esta se adopta.
Fuente: El Nacional.

Dolarización en Venezuela.

¿Conviene o no dolarizar la economía venezolana? La respuesta a esa pregunta no es fácil ni puede ser concluyente, ya que su implementación tendría ventajas, pero también acarrearía problemas y dificultades difíciles de manejar o solventar. Empecemos por decir que la dolarización es la sustitución total de la moneda local por una divisa extranjera, el dólar norteamericano en este caso, como moneda de curso legal, sustituyéndola en todas sus funciones, es decir, como unidad de cuenta, como reserva de valor, y como medio de pago de todas las transacciones, tanto públicas como privadas.
Entre las ventajas de la dolarización estarían: la moderación de la inflación en el tiempo, la reducción de la incertidumbre cambiaria y de las expectativas de devaluaciones súbitas, la eliminación de la posibilidad de financiamiento de gasto público deficitario por el Banco Central y la creación de condiciones propicias para el estímulo de la inversión y la generación de confianza. Entre las desventajas se podrían mencionar: la severa limitación para implementar políticas monetarias; la minimización de las posibilidades del Banco Central de actuar como prestamista de última instancia, limitándole la facultad de otorgarle auxilio financiero a la banca; la imposibilidad de aplicar medidas de política cambiaria para afrontar problemas de deterioro de balanza de pagos; y la pérdida del señoraje, es decir, el derecho o la posibilidad del gobernante de emitir dinero, lo cual le genera un ingreso pues le permite a quien lo emite adquirir activos con esos medios de pago. No obstante, para muchos este último perjuicio es más bien una ventaja de la dolarización, pues limita las posibilidades a los gobernantes de crear dinero en cantidades excesivas, lo cual genera inflación.
Los que promueven la dolarización argumentan que ese es el medio más efectivo para evitar el manejo irresponsable de las políticas económicas, pues le impone a los gobernantes una serie de limitaciones y prohibiciones que les impide devaluar la moneda, u obligar a los bancos centrales a financiar gasto público deficitario con fines políticos, clientelares o de enriquecimiento ilícito. Para ellos, la dolarización es la forma más eficiente de acabar con el flagelo de la inflación, la corrupción, y preservar el valor de la moneda, de las remuneraciones y del patrimonio de las personas.
Sin embargo, la dolarización no fuerza ni asegura la disciplina fiscal, pudiéndose generar déficits públicos recurrentes y crecientes, bien sea por la caída de los ingresos, por aumentos de los gastos, o por la combinación de ambos, déficits que son financiados con préstamos locales o externos. Incluso, después de agotarse esa fuente de financiamiento, los gobernantes podrían incurrir en prácticas irresponsables, como la emisión de obligaciones gubernamentales a ser adquiridas por los bancos de forma conminatoria con sus fondos de reserva. Para ello se podrían modificar las reglamentaciones financieras, permitiendo que los encajes bancarios y otros recursos de reserva sean mantenidos indistintamente en dólares o en papeles del Estado.
Otro de los problemas de la dolarización es la total dependencia de la dinámica cambiaria de la moneda norteamericana en los mercados internacionales. El fortalecimiento del dólar, como el que se ha estado produciendo recientemente, implica pérdida de la capacidad competitiva del sector productivo local de bienes transables, limitando sus exportaciones y estimulando las importaciones. Igualmente, en economías altamente dependientes de la exportación de commodities, como es el caso de Venezuela, y en menor grado de otras economías de la región, la dolarización incrementa su vulnerabilidad a caídas en los precios de esos productos, no pudiendo afrontarse estas situaciones a través de ajustes del tipo de cambio.
Por todo lo anterior, es válido que nos preguntemos si le conviene o no la dolarización a Venezuela. Eso lo trataremos de contestar en nuestro próximo artículo.

martes, 22 de julio de 2014

After Malaysia Airlines Crashes, the Payments Are Piling Up for Air Insurers.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia Airlines’ two crashes in less than five months are sending tremors through the aviation insurance market — not least because the carrier’s $2.25 billion overall liability policy is mysteriously missing a standard phrase that usually limits insurers’ payments for search-and-rescue costs.
The looming payments are coming as underwriters face other claims, because of the shelling of Libya’s main airport a week ago, with 20 planes damaged, and a pair of deadly Taliban attacks on Karachi’s airport in Pakistan.
For just one category of aviation insurance — war risk insurance on the planes — estimated claims for incidents in the last five months now total up to $600 million for a sector that collects $65 million a year in premiums.
Airlines have many insurance policies. But the main one is an “all risk” policy that covers most crash-related expenses, including what is usually the biggest: paying for settlements with passengers’ next of kin.
Malaysia Airlines’ broader policy has a high cap by industry standards — $2.25 billion for each crash — because the carrier operates big Airbus A380s, each configured for 494 passengers, and it wanted ample coverage.
But the policy is unusual in that it does not have a separate sublimit for search-and-rescue costs — it is limited only by the overall $2.25 billion cap for the policy, three people with knowledge of the policy said. It is unclear why the clause was omitted, they said.
The absence of a sublimit for search-and-rescue costs means that Malaysia Airlines could seek reimbursement for tens of millions — and potentially hundreds of millions — of dollars in search costs if the Malaysian and Australian governments decide to bill the airline for even part of their considerable expenses in looking for Flight 370, which vanished on March 8. An Australian delegation has been sent to Malaysia to broach the question of sharing costs for the Flight 370 investigation and seeking insurance reimbursement, said people with knowledge of the visit and the insurance policy, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. By tradition, governments do not seek reimbursement from an airline for search-and-rescue costs. As a result, the airlines do not typically need to ask their insurers to cover these costs; the insurers cover only so-called commercial costs, though their contracts do allow governments to seek reimbursement. In the case of Flight 370, the Australian government is paying 8 million Australian dollars, or $7.5 million, to commercial contractors for a survey of the floor of the Indian Ocean, and has set aside another 60 million Australian dollars to hire a contractor to tow deep-sea submersibles across 60,000 square kilometers of the ocean floor to look for the missing plane. Australian officials, Malaysian officials and the lead underwriter of the broad liability policy, Allianz of Germany, all declined to comment, as did the broker who negotiated the insurance policy on Malaysia Airlines’ behalf, the London-based Willis Group Holdings. The crash of Flight 17 appears to have caught the war risk insurance market particularly by surprise. Insurers often prohibit airlines from flying across dangerous areas, or cancel their policies, but most carriers kept flying over Ukraine until the crash. The number of flights there dropped only 12 percent in the month leading up to it. “One assumes that if the war risk underwriters thought there was any risk, they would have prohibited airlines from flying or canceled their policies,” said Paul Hayes, head of accidents and insurance at Ascend, an aviation consulting firm in London. Malaysia Airlines’ war risk policy has a separate, much lower limit than the overall policy for claims for search-and-rescue costs. As in most aviation insurance contracts, a provision caps claims for these costs to a small percentage of the overall value of the policy. The Atrium Underwriting Group, the lead underwriter for Malaysia Airlines’ war risk insurance, said in a statement that it had immediately approved payment for the loss of the aircraft in Flight 17. Aon, a London-based company that is one of the world’s largest insurance brokers, said over the weekend that the plane had been insured for $97.3 million, but Atrium did not confirm the value. The crash of Flight 370 triggered a half-payment from Atrium under the war risk policy after adjusters concluded that there was a substantial but not ironclad case that the crash may have involved pilot suicide or other criminal action. War risk policies also cover deliberate, malicious acts. The Allianz-led policy — Allianz itself has only 9 percent of the exposure, having shared the rest with other underwriters — paid the balance of the cost of that aircraft, which had been insured for $100.2 million, insurance executives said. Insurance adjusters agreed with the Malaysian government there was a strong but not fully proved possibility that Flight 370 was lost because of deliberate action, given that the plane made a series of at least four well-executed turns over the course of an hour before heading south across the Indian Ocean until it apparently ran out of fuel. The final compromise followed a precedent in other cases in which pilot suicide was suspected but not proved. “It was basically split between the two policies,” said Neil Smith, the head of underwriting at the Lloyd’s Market Association, a trade group composed of Lloyd’s of London insurance underwriters. The crashes of Flight 370 and Flight 17 are not Malaysia Airlines’ first unusual insurance claims, however. The airline had an unusual claim in 2000 for the total loss of an Airbus A330 traveling in the opposite direction on the same route as Flight 370. In that case, a canister of a mysterious Chinese shipment destined for Iran broke open near the end of a trip from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur and began leaking, producing a smell that prompted the captain to conduct an emergency evacuation upon landing of all 266 people aboard. A subsequent investigation found that the hold was contaminated beyond cleaning with mercury and other chemicals that may have been precursors for the manufacture of nerve gas. The Malaysian government ended up digging a large hole in the ground near the airport tarmac and burying the entire plane. Insurers paid a full settlement of $90 million. Airline insurance premiums are set through an annual process in which underwriters bid for which provider will offer the lowest premiums at the best terms. Few airlines’ policies have been renewed yet; Malaysia Airlines’ has not. Until this year, Malaysia Airlines paid some of the lowest insurance premiums in the global aviation market, because it had a fairly young fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes. “With a shallow premium pool fully exhausted and an expectation of an immediate review of the current hull war premium rating, MH17 and incidents recently in Pakistan and Tripoli look likely to be the events that may halt the decline in aviation premium income and usher in the reintroduction of increases once again,” said Gary Moran, the head of Asia aviation brokerage for Aon. Many leases and other contracts in the airline industry require carriers to be insured. Despite recent losses, Mr. Smith said, airlines were still able to obtain insurance, though he declined to speculate on the likelihood of increases in premiums. “If it wasn’t available,” he said, “the airlines wouldn’t be able to fly.”

jueves, 13 de septiembre de 2012

Fed Pledges Action Until Economy Shows Gains.

The Federal Reserve opened a new chapter Thursday in its efforts to stimulate the economy, saying that it intends to buy large quantities of mortgage bonds, and potentially other assets, until the job market improves substantially.

This is the first time that the Fed has tied the duration of an aid program to its economic objectives. And, in announcing the change, the central bank made clear that its primary reason was not a deterioration in its economic outlook, but a determination to respond more forcefully — in effect, an acknowledgment that its incremental approach until now had been flawed.
The concern about unemployment also reflects a significant shift in the priorities of the nation’s central bank, which has long focused on inflation. Inflation is now running below the Fed’s 2 percent annual target. But with the unemployment rate above 8 percent, the Fed’s policy-making committee suggested Thursday that it might tolerate a period of somewhat higher inflation, promising to maintain stimulus efforts “for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens.”
“The weak job market should concern every American,” the Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said at a news conference. The goal of the new policies, he added, “is to quicken the recovery, to help the economy begin to grow quickly enough to generate new jobs.”
The need for new stimulus reflects the disappointing condition of the American economy, which continues to struggle between crisis and prosperity three years after the official end of the recession. More than 20 million Americans cannot find full-time jobs. Medianhousehold income has declined. The housing market remains depressed.
The Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, issued a statement describing the Fed’s announcement as “further confirmation that President Obama’s policies have not worked.”
Mr. Romney added that he did not think the Fed’s efforts would work, either.
Democrats, in turn, laid the blame on Republicans in Congress. “The Fed is fulfilling its obligation to take action to address unemployment. Now Congressional Republicans need to fulfill theirs,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a statement.
Delighted investors responded by piling into the stock market, instantly gratifying one of the Fed’s primary objectives for its program — to push money into riskier investments. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index closed up 1.63 percent; shares in home builders rose on the news.
“There weren’t many more accommodative options the Fed could have gone with,” said Dan Greenhaus, the chief global strategist at BTIG, an institutional brokerage firm.
The Fed said it would add $23 billion of mortgage bonds to its portfolio by the end of September, a pace of $40 billion in purchases a month. It will then announce a new target at the end of this month, and every subsequent month, until the labor market outlook improves “substantially,” as long as inflation remains in check. It did not further explain either standard.
Mr. Bernanke said the committee had decided to announce a “qualitative” standard because no single number sufficiently represented the health of the labor market.
“We will be looking for the sort of broad-based growth in jobs and economic activity that generally signal sustained improvement in labor market conditions and declining unemployment,” he said.
Some analysts cautioned, however, that the lack of a specific standard could limit the impact.
“These moves indicate the accommodation switch has been turned on,” Michael Gapen, senior United States economist at Barclays Capital, wrote in a note to clients after the announcement on Thursday.
“On the other hand, boldness has been traded for more uncertainty, as the overall amount and duration of Fed purchases will be dependent on evolving economic conditions.”
The committee’s statement provided a measure of guidance, in the form of an outer limit on the Fed’s intentions. It said that the Fed now intended to hold short-term interest rates near zero at least through the middle of 2015, roughly half-a-year longer than its previous statement. And the projections of senior Fed officials showed that all but one committee member expected to start raising rates by the end of 2015.
Perhaps more important than that timeline was the committee’s insistence, echoed by Mr. Bernanke, that the 2015 horizon was not an estimate of when the recovery would begin, but rather an indication of the Fed’s determination to keep its foot on the gas well past that point.
“We’re not going to rush to begin to tighten policy,” Mr. Bernanke said. “We’re going to give it some time to make sure that the recovery is well established.” 
Eleven members of the committee voted in favor of the statement. The only dissent came from Jeffrey M. Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va.
The scale of the new effort is smaller than the Fed’s previous asset purchases. The first round, starting in 2008, averaged more than $100 billion a month. The second, beginning in 2010, averaged $75 billion a month. The current round will begin at a pace of $40 billion a month, although the volume remains subject to adjustment.
The Fed said it would also continue to purchase Treasury securities under an existing program that runs through the end of the year, taking the total volume to roughly $85 billion a month through the rest of the year.
There is broad disagreement among economists about the effects of the Fed’s actions. The Fed’s own research shows it may have raised economic output by 3 percent and created more than two million jobs. Most independent analyses have reached more modest conclusions, and some experts argue that there is little evidence of any meaningful economic impact.
The first round of purchases, known as QE1, aimed to arrest the financial crisis, in part by clearing room on bank balance sheets. The second round, called QE2, was started amid concerns that prices were increasing too slowly, raising the specter of deflation. This round, by contrast, is aimed squarely at the huge and persistent unemployment crisis.
The decision to focus on mortgage bonds reflects the Fed’s conviction that the housing market still needs help, and that lower rates on mortgage loans will produce broad economic benefits. Buying bonds drives down rates by increasing competition for the remaining bonds, forcing investors to accept a lower rate of return or move their money into other, riskier assets.
Joel Naroff, principal of Naroff Economic Advisors, described the decision as “housing or nothing.”
“The Fed is admitting that its best bet to improve growth is by continuing to help this sector,” he wrote. “By keeping mortgage rates down, the members are betting that housing starts will accelerate, creating more jobs and income. Otherwise, there is little reason to ease further.”
Fed officials expressed confidence that the effort would help.
The Fed’s senior officials — the 17 members of its policy-making committee — expect the economy to expand from 1.7 to 2 percent this year, down from their June estimate of growth of 1.9 to 2.4 percent, according to projections also released Thursday. They continued to predict the unemployment rate would not fall below 8 percent.
However, they predicted growth would be somewhat faster in coming years, and unemployment would decline somewhat more quickly, presumably reflecting the steps announced Thursday.
And some outside economists agreed. “The Fed’s actions may not on their own result in a sudden change in the economy,” wrote Jim O’Sullivan, chief United States economist at High Frequency Economics. “However, more accommodative financial conditions can only add to growth over time.”
Other economists, however, said the benefits would be small at best. They argue that interest rates already are near record lows, and that the primary constraints to new borrowing are that many borrowers cannot qualify for new loans and many homeowners cannot sell or refinance because they owe more than the current value of their homes.
No one predicted that the Fed’s new program would return unemployment to normal levels in the foreseeable future, or increase growth enough to eliminate the huge and growing shortfall in economic output since the onset of the financial crisis.
Fuente: The New York Times.

jueves, 30 de agosto de 2012

Las reservas de la revolución bonita.

(El profesor del IESA, Miguel Ángel Santos, explica las razones de la disminución de las reservas internacionales de Venezuela y cuáles son sus posibilidades de recuperación según los escenarios que se vislumbran de cara al resultado de las elecciones presidenciales del próximo 7 de octubre. Publicado en el diario El Universal, el 24 de agosto de 2012).

Venezuela está en sus mínimos de reservas internacionales de los últimos cinco años. Habría que remontarse a la caída de los precios del petróleo tras la crisis financiera de 2007 para dar con un nivel menor. Sin considerar ese hito específico, estas son nuestras reservas más bajas de los últimos siete años. Los 25.581 millones de dólares registrados por el BCV esta semana apenas alcanzan para algo menos de siete meses de importaciones. Más de 70% está en oro, y aunque los volúmenes están allí, el valor ya es otra cosa.

Por ejemplo, la semana pasada el BCV cambió el precio al que valora el oro, de promedio de los últimos dos meses a promedio de los últimos seis meses. Con este cambio se evitó presentar una caída de 2,7% en las reservas como consecuencia del reciente debilitamiento del precio del oro en el mercado internacional. Otro 16% está en derechos especiales de giro a los que tenemos acceso por nuestra membresía en el Fondo Monetario Internacional. Estos dos rubros (oro y FMI) se consideran reservas no operativas, y representan más de 86% del total. Visto así, la parte líquida (14% del total) apenas alcanza para 28 días de importaciones.

Varios disparates legales, entre ellos la introducción de la idea de "reservas excedentarias" y la eliminación de la obligación de Pdvsa de liquidar todas las divisas que obtiene por venta de petróleo en el BCV, han ido drenando cada año miles de millones de dólares hacia fondos sin ningún tipo de mecanismos institucionales de rendición de cuentas. La introducción de las reservas excedentarias obliga al BCV a transferir a Fonden todo el "exceso" por encima de cierto límite, sin que en el proceso se recoja la contrapartida en bolívares que esos dólares generaron cuando ingresaron al BCV. Esta locura ha causado que la relación de liquidez a reservas supere ahora mismo los 21 bolívares fuertes por dólar, cinco veces el cambio oficial, cuatro veces el Sitme, más de dos veces la cotización del dólar paralelo.

Así, los bolívares se han quedado flotando en el aire, lo que entre otras cosas ha contribuido a que hayamos cumplido una década entre las inflaciones más altas del planeta. Esto, a su vez, ha corroído el poder adquisitivo de los sueldos y salarios, particularmente en el sector privado. Según el BCV, el poder adquisitivo de los trabajadores privados (80% del total, pues este agregado combina privados formales e informales, que son acaso más privados que ningún otro) está ahora 27% por debajo de 1998.

Esta situación nos lleva a una profunda asimetría: de ganar Chávez las elecciones del próximo 7-O se vería obligado a ejecutar una macrodevaluación, sí, pero tendría disponibles algunos de los recursos de los fondos. Estas disponibilidades varían -según con quien se hable, según si se consideren comprometidos o no- de unos pocos miles de millones de dólares a decenas de ellos, así de transparentes son las cuentas. Por el contrario, existe un consenso unánime: de ganar la oposición será muy difícil contar con las disponibilidades de esos fondos paralelos, serían saqueados sin margen de duda entre octubre y diciembre (lo poco que podamos hacer nosotros para evitarlo ya se está haciendo). Así es la revolución bonita. 

Fuente: Prof. Miguel Ángel Santos.