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伊朗危机或将给股市带来“不对称风险”

Bernhard Warner 2020年01月08日

美国出人意料地在伊拉克发动空袭,将长期敌对的美伊两国正式拉到了战争边缘。

每年年底,经济学家们都要对来年的经济形势进行一番展望,今年自然也不例外。在对今年的展望中,他们把可能影响全球经济的风险因素基本上都写了进去,最重要的一个风险点,是中美尚未达成实质性的经贸协定。不断增长的企业债务也是一个重要风险点。此外还有中国经济的下行风险尚未扭转、英国脱欧的久拖不决等等。

在大多数经济学家的眼中,特朗普被弹劾(甚至有可能提前下台)则只不过是小事一桩。然而就在新年伊始,美国出人意料地在伊拉克发动空袭,杀死了伊朗军方的最高指挥官,将长期敌对的美伊两国正式拉到了战争边缘。这样的戏码,就连最悲观的预言家也是预测不出来的。

现在,我们进入2020年还不到一周的时间,全球市场已经面临着与2019年截然不同的考验。

在过去的一年里,市场表现出了惊人的坚挺,很大程度上抵消了美国历史上第三次弹劾总统带来的负面影响。

而美伊之间日益紧张的地缘政治局势给全球经济造成的影响,却远非特朗普的弹劾案可比。

位于德国柏林的信用评级机构Scope ratings的主权评级主管丹尼斯·沈认为:“在特朗普弹劾案中,人们基本上认为,特朗普虽然受到了弹劾,但肯定不会被定罪,也不会提前下台。但在伊朗问题上,出现不对称风险和极端风险的可能性要大得多。”

伊朗问题与股市风险

市场观察人士和军事战略家一样,对“负面不对称风险”——也就是潜在负面风险远大于预期的正面效果的情况,是深恶痛绝的。无论是经济学家还是分析师或者投资经理,他们的工作都是全面考虑各类风险场景,评估潜在的回报——或者像Scope Ratings那样,评估一个国家的信用评级。所以在他们看来,弹劾总统是一个简单的风险,但战争则是另一回事。

在过去的几天里,这种不确定性给市场带来的影响更是极为明显。

自从上周特朗普下令炸死伊朗将军卡西姆·苏莱曼尼以来,全球市场不出所料地出现了资产抛售现象——一开始抛售幅度并不算大,然而令人担忧的是,之后的抛售速度变得越来越快。

虽然美国市场在本周一下午的交易中普遍反弹,但一些反映市场波动性上升的常用指标(黄金价格飙升到近6年来的最高点,原油价格也出现飙升)和一些新兴指标(比特币价格飙升)也是不容忽视的。这说明投资者无疑对美国炸死苏莱曼尼和随后发生的一系列事件感到了不安——比如伊朗正式退出伊核协议、伊拉克投票驱逐美国军队,以及特朗普与伊朗最高领袖哈梅内伊之间不断升级的口水战等等。

在地缘政治方面,没有人确定接下来会发生什么。很有可能双方会发起一场针锋相对的网络战,甚至是打一场小规模的代理人战争。全球的石油供给也有可能受到影响,原油价格有可能飙升到75美元,然后是80美元,甚至是90美元以上——当然,这一切也可能根本不会发生。

对市场来说,这种“有可能”本身就是一场灾难,尤其是在短期内。苏莱曼尼刚死没几天,市场的不确定性已经高到了天边上。

本周一早盘开盘时,美国股市的波动性指数飙升了近10%,各大股指全线飘红。而即便是在10年前金融危机最严重的时候,波动性指数都没有达到如此令人担忧的水平。很明显,市场已经不再处于“定速巡航”的状态了——虽然仅仅四天前,一切都还显得那么井然有序。

有些抛售行为和波动性的上升并不令人意外。贝伦堡银行的首席经济学家霍尔格·施米丁指出:“由于去年市场的表现十分良好,当前的市场的下行风险自然是很高的,任何意外都有可能成为影响市场的大事件。而在情绪方面,我们也在寻找有没有理由结束去年以来市场的亢奋情绪。在我这样一名经济学家看来,这件事真的会给全球经济造成重大威胁吗?我认为并不会。”

施米丁表示,中东最近的局势虽然紧张,但无论目前的形势看起来有多坏,都不足以让他重新制订对2020年的经济展望。他仍然预计美国经济今年将增长2.1%,低于2019年的2.3%。

不过作为一名经济学家,他也正在关注一些令人感到担忧的数据。首先是原油价格的大幅上涨可能将持续较长一段时间(目前,布伦特原油价格徘徊在70美元左右),这很有可能会打击消费者的信心,加剧通货膨胀,并影响消费者的乐观情绪。

目前,这种情况似乎不太可能出现。但是,此事后续如果还有其他反转——也就是所谓的“不对称风险”,则很有可能在这样一个大选年里,将特朗普推到绝境。

施米丁说:“汽油价格上涨,以及由此带来的经济上的打击,绝对不会是你今年秋天想看到的景象。”(亚博娱乐app下载中文网)

译者:朴成奎

When economists started drafting their 2020 outlooks a few weeks ago they had penciled in, as they do every year, the likely risks to the markets and the global economy. A meaningful trade deal between the U.S. and China not materializing was high on the list. Ballooning corporate debt was there too, as were China’s failure to right its economy and further delays to Brexit.

Conversely, the impeachment (let alone the removal from office) of President Trump was seen as a mere trifle for most 2020 forecasts. As for an airstrike taking out Iran’s top military commander, plunging the two arch-enemies into a precarious game of brinksmanship? Not even the most pessimistic prognosticator could see that one coming.

And yet here we are, not yet a week into the new year, and the global markets are facing a test unlike any they saw in 2019.

The markets were impressively resilient throughout the past year, most notably shrugging off the impeachment of a U.S. president for only the third time in the nation’s history.

Rising geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and Iran isn’t likely to be the same kind of ho-hum affair.

“With the impeachment proceedings, it was by and large mostly taken for granted that the president would be impeached and not be convicted, not be removed from office,” says Dennis Shen, a director in sovereign ratings for Berlin-based Scope Ratings, a credit ratings agency. “With Iran, there’s a much higher asymmetric, or tail, risk.”

Iran and the risk to the stock market

Marketplace observers, like military planners, hate the "negative asymmetric risks," those in which the potential downside far outweighs the desired upside. An economist, analyst or portfolio manager is paid to think through all kinds of risk scenarios to assess potential return, or, like Scope, credit worthiness. For them, an impeachment scenario is fairly straightforward. War is not.

This lack of clarity has played out at points in the markets over the past few days.

Since President Trump ordered the airstrike last week that took out Iranian General Qassem Soleimani global markets have, predictably, sold off—moderately at first, and then, more worryingly, at an increasing rate.

And while U.S. markets recovered broadly in afternoon trade on Monday, many of the usual indicators of rising market volatility (gold rallying to a six-year high and crude spiking) plus some new ones (the price of bitcoin soaring) are there. Together, they reveal that investors are undoubtedly unnerved by the Soleimani slaying and the events that’ve followed. Namely, that would include Iran’s official pullout of the nuclear deal, Iraq’s vote to expel U.S. troops, and the escalating war of words from Trump and the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

On the geopolitical front, nobody is sure what will happen next. Possibilities include a tit-for-tat cyber war. Or, maybe it’s a military skirmish fought by proxy militaries. Maybe there’s a disruption to oil supplies. Maybe crude spikes to $75, then $80, or even $90 or above. Then again, maybe not.

For markets, the what-ifs are nearly as bad as the real thing, particularly in the short term as we’re seeing. And, just a few days into the ordeal, the uncertainty is sky high.

On cue, the Vix, or so-called Volatility Index, spiked nearly 10% Monday morning as the markets opened in the U.S. with every major index in the red. Zoom back, and the Vix is not nearly at the worrying heights it reached during the worst of the Great Recession, a decade ago. But it’s clear: the markets are no longer on cruise control—no longer where they were just four days ago.

Some of the sell-off and ramp-up in volalitity is to be expected. “Markets at the moment are of course highly vulnerable because markets had such a good run last year, that anything unexpected is a major market event,” said Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg. “Sentiment-wise, we are looking for reasons to end the euphoria of last year. The question for me as an economist is that really something that adds up to a major threat to the global economy? And I think it does not.”

Schmieding says the latest tensions in the Middle East, no matter how bad they seem at the moment, are not enough to get him to rewrite his 2020 economic outlook. He still predicts U.S. economic growth at 2.1%, down from 2.3% in 2019.

But being an economist, he’s on the look out for worrying data points. Chief among them would be a big spike in the price of crude for an extended period—say, $90 a barrel for three months or more (Brent is hovering around $70 at the moment)—something that would hit consumers at the pump, goose inflation and sink consumer optimism.

At the moment, that scenario doesn't seem likely. But still it’s the kind of turn of events—"asymmetric" in other words—that could doom an incumbent president in an election year.

“Higher petrol prices, and an economy that takes a hit from that is not the backdrop you’d want to have this autumn,” Schmieding says.

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