Mostrando postagens com marcador FED. Mostrar todas as postagens
Mostrando postagens com marcador FED. Mostrar todas as postagens

18 outubro 2020


É por isso que costumo dizer que o negócio dos bancos centrais é como a pornografia: em essência, é apenas entretenimento e não tem nenhum efeito real.

(Eugene Fama, aqui, via Marginal Revolution)

30 maio 2013

Entrevista com Barry Eichengreen

Excelente entrevista retirada do site do Fed de Cleveland com o professor Barry Eichengreen.

To some, the term “economic historian” conjures up images of an academic whose only interests lie deep in the past; an armchair scholar who holds forth on days long ago but has no insights about the present. Barry Eichengreen provides a useful corrective to that stereotype. For, as much as Eichengreen has studied episodes in economic history, he seems more attuned to connecting the past to the present. At the same time, he is mindful that “lessons” have a way of taking on lives of their own. What’s taken as given among economic historians today may be wholly rejected in the future.
Barry Eichengreen is the George C. Pardee and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Economics and Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, his hometown. He is known as an expert on monetary systems and global finance. He has authored more than a dozen books and many more academic papers on topics from the Great Depression to the recent financial crisis.
Eichengreen was a keynote speaker at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s research conference, Current Policy under the Lens of Economic History, in December 2012. Mark Sniderman, the Cleveland Fed’s executive vice president and chief policy officer, interviewed Eichengreen during his visit. An edited transcript follows.
Sniderman: It’s an honor to talk with you. You’re here at this conference to discuss the uses and misuses of economic history. Can you give us an example of how people inaccurately apply lessons from the past to the recent financial crisis?
Eichengreen: The honor is mine.
Whenever I say “lessons,” please understand the word to be surrounded by quotation marks. My point is that “lessons” when drawn mechanically have considerable capacity to mislead. For example, one “lesson” from the literature on the Great Depression was how disruptive serious banking crises can be. That, in a nutshell, is why the Fed and its fellow regulators paid such close attention to the banking system in the run-up to the recent crisis. But that “lesson” of history was, in part, what allowed them to overlook what was happening in the shadow banking system, as our system of lightly regulated near-banks is known.
What did they miss it? One answer is that there was effectively no shadow banking system to speak of in the 1930s. We learned to pay close attention to what was going on in the banking system, narrowly defined. That bias may have been part of what led policymakers to miss what was going on in other parts of the financial system.
Another example, this one from Europe, is the “lesson” that there is necessarily such a thing as expansionary fiscal consolidation. Europeans, when arguing that such a thing exists, look to the experience of the Netherlands and Ireland in the 1980s, when those countries cut their budget deficits without experiencing extended recessions. Both countries were able to consolidate but continue to grow, leading contemporary observers to argue that the same should be true in Europe today. But reasoning from that historical case to today misleads because the circumstances at both the country and global level were very different. Ireland and the Netherlands were small. They were consolidating in a period when the world economy was growing. These facts allowed them to substitute external demand for domestic demand. In addition, unlike European countries today they had their own monetary policies, allowing them step down the exchange rate, enhancing the competitiveness of their exports at one fell swoop, and avoid extended recessions. But it does not follow from their experience that the same is necessarily possible today. Everyone in Europe is consolidating simultaneously. Most nations lack their own independent exchange rate and monetary policies. And the world economy is not growing robustly.

A third “lesson” of history capable equally of informing and misinforming policy would be the belief in Germany that hyperinflation is always and everywhere just around the corner. Whenever the European Central Bank does something unconventional, like its program of Outright Monetary Transactions, there are warnings in German press that this is about to unleash the hounds of inflation. This presumption reflects from the “lesson” of history, taught in German schools, that there is no such thing as a little inflation. It reflects the searing impact of the hyperinflation of the 1920s, in other words. From a distance, it’s interesting and more than a little peculiar that those textbooks fail to mention the high unemployment rate in the 1930s and how that also had highly damaging political and social consequences.
The larger question is whether it is productive to think in terms of “history lessons.” Economic theory has no lessons; instead, it simply offers a way of systematically structuring how we think about the world. The same is true of history.
Sniderman: Let’s pick up on a couple of your comments about the Great Depression and hyperinflation in Germany. Today, some people in the United States have the same concerns. They look at the expansion of the monetary base and worry about inflation. Do you find it surprising that people are still fighting about whether big inflation is just around the corner because of US monetary policy, and is it appropriate to think about that in the context of the unemployment situation as well?
Eichengreen: I don’t find it surprising that the conduct of monetary policy is contested. Debate and disagreement are healthy. Fiat money is a complicated concept; not everyone trusts it. But while it’s important to think about inflation risks, it’s also important to worry about the permanent damage to potential output that might result from an extended period subpar growth. To be sure, reasonable people can question whether the Fed possesses tools suitable for addressing this problem. But it’s important to have that conversation.
Sniderman: Maybe just one more question in this direction because so much of your research has centered on the Great Depression. Surely you’ve been thinking about some of the similarities and differences between that period and this one. Have you come to any conclusions about that? Where are the congruencies and incongruences?
Eichengreen: My work on the Depression highlighted its international dimension. It emphasized the role of the gold standard and other international linkages in the onset of the Depression, and it emphasized the role that abandoning the gold standard and changing the international monetary regime played in bringing it to an end.
As a student, I was struck by the tendency in much of the literature on the Depression to treat the US essentially as a closed economy. Not surprisingly, perhaps, I was then struck by the tendency in 2007 to think about what was happening then as a US subprime crisis. Eventually, we came to realize that we were facing not just a US crisis but a global crisis. But there was an extended period during when many observers, in Europe in particular, thought that their economies were immune. They viewed what was happening as an exclusively American problem. They didn’t realize that what happened in the United States doesn’t stay in the United States. They didn’t realize that European banks, which rely heavily on dollar funding, were tightly linked to US economic and financial conditions. One of the first bits of research I did when comparing the Great Depression with the global credit crisis, together with Kevin O’Rourke, was to construct indicators of GDP, industrial production, trade, and stock market valuations worldwide and to show that, when viewed globally, the current crisis was every bit as severe as that of the 1930s.
Eventually, we came to realize that we were facing not just a US crisis but a global crisis. But there was an extended period during when many observers, in Europe in particular, thought that their economies were immune.
Sniderman: Given that many European countries are sharing our financial distress, what changes in the international monetary regime, if any, would be helpful? Could that avenue for thinking of solutions be as important this time around as it was the last time?
Eichengreen: One of the few constants in the historical record is dissatisfaction with the status quo. When exchange rates were fixed, Milton Friedman wrote that flexible rates would be better. When rates became flexible, others like Ron McKinnon argued that it would be better if we returned to pegs. The truth is that there are tradeoffs between fixed and flexible rates and, more generally, in the design of any international monetary system. Exchange rate commitments limit the autonomy of national monetary policymakers, which can be a good thing if that autonomy is being misused. But it can be a bad thing if that autonomy is needed to address pressing economic problems. The reality is that there is no such thing as the perfect exchange rate regime. Or, as Jeffrey Frankel put it, no one exchange rate regime is suitable for all times and places.
That said, there has tended to be movement over time in the direction of greater flexibility and greater discretion for policymakers. This reflects the fact that the mandate for central banks has grown more complex – necessarily, I would argue, given the growing complexity of the economy. An implication of that more complex mandate is the need for more discretion and judgment in the conduct of monetary policy—and a more flexible exchange rate to allow that discretion to be exercised.
Sniderman: I’d be interested in knowing whether you thought this crisis would have played out differently in the European Union if the individual countries still had their own currencies. Has the euro, per se, been an element in the problems that Europe is having, much as a regime fixed to gold was a problem during the Great Depression?
Eichengreen: Europe is a special case, as your question acknowledges. Europeans have their own distinctive history and they have drawn their own distinctive “lessons” from it. They looked at the experience of the 1930s and concluded that what we would now call currency warfare, that is, beggar-thy-neighbor exchange-rate policies, were part of what created tensions leading to World War II. The desire to make Europe a more peaceful place led to the creation of the European Union. And integral to that initiative was the effort was to stabilize exchange rates, first on an ad hoc basis and then by moving to the euro.
Whether things will play out as anticipated is, as always, an open question. We now know that the move to monetary union was premature. Monetary union requires at least limited banking union. Banking union requires at least limited fiscal union. And fiscal union requires at least limited political union. The members of the euro zone are now moving as fast as they can, which admittedly is not all that fast, to retrofit their monetary union to include a banking union, a fiscal union, and some form of political union. Time will tell whether or not they succeed.
But even if hindsight tells us that moving to a monetary union in 1999 was premature, it is important to understand that history doesn’t always run in reverse. The Europeans now will have to make their monetary union work. If they don’t, they’ll pay a high price.
I didn’t anticipate the severity and intractability of the euro crisis. All I can say in my defense is that no one did.
Sniderman: Let me pose a very speculative question. Would you say that if the Europeans had understood from the beginning what might be required to make all this work, they might not have embarked on the experiment; but because they did it as they did, there’s a greater likelihood that they’ll do what’s necessary to make the euro system endure? Is that how you’re conjecturing things will play out?
Eichengreen: If I may, allow me to refer back to the early literature on the euro. In 1992, in adopting theMaastricht Treaty, the members of the European Union committed to forming a monetary union. That elicited a flurry of scholarship. An article I wrote about that time with Tamim Bayoumi looked at whether a large euro area or a small euro area was better. We concluded that a small euro area centered on France, Germany, and the Benelux countries made more sense. So one mistake the Europeans made, which was predictable perhaps on political grounds, though no more excusable, was to opt for a large euro area.
I had another article in the Journal of Economic Literature in which I devoted several pages to the need for a banking union; on the importance, if you’re going to have a single currency, single financial market and integrated banking system, of also having common bank supervision, regulation, and resolution. European leaders, in their wisdom, thought that they could force the pace. They thought that by moving to monetary union they could force their members to agree to banking union more quickly. More quickly didn’t necessarily mean overnight; they thought that they would have a couple of decades to complete the process. Unfortunately, they were side-swiped by the 2007-08 crisis. What they thought would be a few decades turned out to be one, and they’ve now grappling with the consequences.
Sniderman: You’ve written about the dollar’s role as a global currency and a reserve currency, and you have some thoughts on where that’s all headed. Maybe you could elaborate on that.
Eichengreen: A first point, frequently overlooked, is that there has regularly been more than one consequential international currency. In the late nineteenth century, there was not only the pound sterling but also the French franc and the German mark. In the 1920s there was both the dollar and the pound sterling. The second half of the twentieth century is the historical anomaly, the one period when was only one global currency because there was only one large country with liquid financial markets open to the rest of the world—the United States. The dollar dominated in this period simply because there were no alternatives.
But this cannot remain the case forever. The US will not be able to provide safe and liquid assets in the quantity required by the rest of the world for an indefinite period. Emerging markets will continue to emerge. Other countries will continue to catch up to the technological leader, which is still, happily, the United States. The US currently accounts for about 25 percent of the global economy. Ten years from now, that fraction might be 20 percent, and 20 years from now it is apt to be less. The US Treasury’s ability to stand behind a stock of Treasury bonds, which currently constitute the single largest share of foreign central banks’ reserves and international liquidity generally, will grow more limited relative to the scale of the world economy. There will have to be alternatives.
In the book I wrote on this subject a couple of years ago, Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System, I pointed to the euro and the Chinese renminbi as the plausible alternatives. I argued that both could conceivably be significant rivals to the dollar by 2020. The dollar might well remain number one as invoicing currency and currency for trade settlements, and as a vehicle for private investment in central bank reserves, but the euro and renminbi could be nipping at its heels.
In the fullness of time I’ve grown more pessimistic about the prospects of those rivals. Back in 2010, when my book went off to the publisher, I didn’t anticipate the severity and intractability of the euro crisis. All I can say in my defense is that no one did. And I underestimated how much work the Chinese will have to do in order to successfully internationalize their currency. They are still moving in that direction; they’ve taken steps to encourage firms to use the renminbi for trade invoicing and settlements, and now they are liberalizing access to their financial markets, if gradually. But they have a deeper problem. Every reserve currency in history has been the currency of a political democracy or a republic of one sort or another. Admittedly the US and Britain are only two observations, which doesn’t exactly leave many degrees of freedom for testing this hypothesis. But if you go back before the dollar and sterling, the leading international currencies were those of Dutch Republic, the Republic of Venice, and the Republic of Genoa. These cases are similarly consistent with the hypothesis.
The question is why. The answer is that international investors, including central banks, are willing to hold the assets only of governments that are subject to checks and balances that limit the likelihood of their acting opportunistically. Political democracy and republican forms of governance are two obvious sources of such checks and balances. In other words, China will have to demonstrate that its central government is subject to limits on arbitrary action – that political decentralization, the greater power of nongovernmental organizations, or some other mechanism – that place limits on arbitrary action before foreign investors, both official and private, are fully comfortable about holding its currency.
I therefore worry not so much about these rivals dethroning the dollar as I do about the US losing the capacity to provide safe, liquid assets on the requisite scale before adequate alternatives emerge. Switzerland is not big enough to provide safe and liquid assets on the requisite scale; neither is Norway, nor Canada, nor Australia. Currently we may be swimming in a world awash with liquidity, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the danger that, say, 10 years from now there won’t be enough international liquidity to grease the wheels of twenty-first-century globalization.
Sniderman: It sounds to me as though you’re also trying to say that the United States should actually become comfortable with, perhaps even welcome, this development, because its absence creates some risks for us.
Eichengreen: I am. The United States benefits from the existence of a robust, integrated global economy. But globalization, in turn, requires liquidity. And the US, by itself, can’t all by itself satisfy the global economy’s international liquidity needs. So the shift toward a multipolar global monetary and financial system is something that we should welcome. It will be good for us, and it will be good for the global economy. To the extent that we have to pay a couple more basis points when we sell Treasury debt because we don’t have a captive market in the form of foreign central banks, that’s not a prohibitive cost.
Sniderman: And how has the financial crisis itself affected the timetable and the movement? It sounds like in some sense it’s retarding it.
Eichengreen: The crisis is clearly slowing the shift away from dollar dominance. When the subprime crisis broke, a lot of people thought the dollar would fall dramatically and that the People’s Bank of China might liquidate its dollar security holdings. What we discovered is that, in a crisis, there’s nothing that individuals, governments and central banks value more than liquidity. And the single most liquid market in the world is the market for US Treasury bonds. When Lehman Bros. failed, as a result of U.S. policy, everybody rushed toward the dollar rather than away. When Congress had its peculiar debate in August 2011 over raising the debt ceiling, everybody rushed toward the dollar rather than away. That fact may be ironic, but it’s true.
And a second effect of the crisis was to retard the emergence of the euro on the global stage. That too supports the continuing dominance of the dollar.
Sniderman: Economists and policymakers have always “missed” things. Are there ways in which economic historians can help current policymakers not to be satisfied with the “lessons” of history and get them to think more generally about these issues?
Eichengreen: It’s important to make the distinction between two questions – between “Could we have done better at anticipating the crisis?” and the question “Could we have done better at responding to it?” On the first question, I would insist that it’s too much to expect economists or economic historians to accurately forecast complex contingent events like financial crises. In the 1990s, I did some work on currency crises, instances when exchange rates collapse, with Charles Wyplosz and Andrew Rose. We found that what works on historical data, in other words what works in sample doesn’t also work out of sample. We were out-of-consensus skeptics about the usefulness of leading indicators of currency crises, and I think subsequent experience has borne out our view. Paul Samuelson made the comment that economists have predicted 13 out of the last seven crises. In other words, there’s type 1 error as well as type 2 error [the problem of false positives as well as false negatives].
Coming to the recent crisis, it’s apparent with hindsight that many economists – and here I by no means exonerate economic historians – were too quick to buy into the idea that there was such a thing as the Great Moderation. That was the idea that through better regulation, improved monetary policy and the development of automatic fiscal stabilizers we had learned to limit the volatility of the business cycle. If we’d paid more attention to history, we would have recalled an earlier period when people made the same argument: They attributed the financial crises of the 19th century to the volatility of credit markets; they believed that the founding of the Fed had eliminated that problem and that the business cycle had been tamed. They concluded that the higher level of asset prices observed in the late 1920s was fully justified by the advent of a more stable economy. They may have called it the New Age rather than the Great Moderation, but the underlying idea, not to say the underlying fallacy, was the same.
A further observation relevant to understanding the role of the discipline in the recent crisis is that we haven’t done a great job as a profession of integrating macroeconomics and finance. There have been heroic efforts to do so over the years, starting with the pioneering work of Franco Modigliani and James Tobin. But neither scholarly work nor the models used by the Federal Reserve System adequately capture, even today, how financial developments and the real economy interact. When things started to go wrong financially in 2007-08, the consequences were not fully anticipated by policymakers and those who advised them – to put an understated gloss on the point. I can think of at least two prominent policy makers, who I will resist the temptation to name, who famously asserted in 2007 that the impact of declining home prices would be “contained.” It turned out that we didn’t understand how declining housing prices were linked to the financial system through collateralized debt obligations and other financial derivatives, or how those instruments were, in turn, linked to important financial institutions. So much for containment.
Sniderman: I suppose one of the challenges that the use of economic history presents is the selectivity of adoption. And here I have in mind things like going back to the Great Depression to learn “lessons.” It’s often been said, based on some of the scholarship of the Great Depression and the role of the Fed, that the “lesson” the Fed should learn is to act aggressively, to act early, and not to withdraw accommodation prematurely. And that is the framework the Fed has chosen to adopt. At the same time, others draw “lessons” from other parts of US economic history and say, “You can’t imagine that this amount of liquidity creation, balance sheet expansion, etc. would not lead to a great inflation.” If people of different viewpoints choose places in history where they say, “History teaches us X,” and use them to buttress their view of the appropriate response, I suppose there’s no way around that other than to trying, as you said earlier, to point out whether these comparisons are truly apt or not.
Eichengreen: A considerable literature in political science and foreign policy addresses this question. Famous examples would be President Truman and Korea on the one hand, and President Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis on the other. Earnest May, the Harvard political scientist, argued that Truman thought only in terms of Munich, Munich having been the searing political event of his generation. Given the perspective this created, Truman was predisposed to see the North Koreans and Chinese as crossing a red line and to react aggressively. Kennedy, on the other hand, was less preoccupied by Munich. He had historians like Arthur Schlesinger advising him. Those advisors encouraged him to develop and consider a portfolio of analogies and test their aptness – in other words, their “fitness” to the circumstances. One should look not only at Munich, Schlesinger and others suggested, but also to Sarajevo. It is important to look at a variety of other precedents for current circumstances, to think which conforms best to the current situation, and to take that fit into account when you’re using history to frame a response.
I think there was a tendency, when things were falling down around our ears in 2008, to refer instinctively to the Great Depression. What Munich was for Truman, the Great Depression is for monetary economists. It’s at least possible that the tendency to compare the two events and to frame the response to the current crisis in terms of the need “to avoid another Great Depression” was conducive to overreaction. In fairness, economic historians did point to other analogies. There was the 1907 financial crisis. There was the 1873 crisis. It would have been better, in any case, to have developed a fuller and more rounded portfolio of precedents and analogies and to have used it to inform the policy response. Of course, that would have required policy makers to have some training in economic history.
Sniderman: This probably brings us back full circle. We started with the uses and misuses of economic history and we’ve been talking about economic history throughout the conversation. I think it might be helpful to hear your perspective on what economic history and economic historians are. Why not just an economist who works in history or a historian who works on topics of economics? What does the term “economic history” mean, and what does the professional discipline of economic historian connote to you?
Eichengreen: As the name suggests, one is neither fish nor fowl; neither economist nor historian. This makes the economic historian a trespasser in other people’s disciplines, to invoke the phrase coined by the late Albert Hirschman. Historians reason by induction while economists are deductive. Economists reason from theory while historians reason from a mass of facts. Economic historians do both. Economists are in the business of simplifying; their strategic instrument is the simplifying assumption. The role of the economic historian is to say “Not so fast, there’s context here. Your model leaves out important aspects of the problem, not only economic but social, political, and institutional aspects – creating the danger of providing a misleading guide to policy.”
Economists reason from theory while historians reason from a mass of facts. Economic historians do both.
Sniderman: Do you think that, in training PhD economists, there’s a missed opportunity to stress the value and usefulness of economic history? Over the years, economics has become increasingly quantitative and math-focused. From the nature of the discussion we’ve had, it is clear that you don’t approach economic history as sort of a side interest of “Let’s study the history of things,” but rather a disciplined way of integrating economic theory into the context of historical episodes. Is that way of thinking about economic history appreciated as much as it could be?
Eichengreen: I should emphasize that the opportunity is not entirely missed. Some top PhD programs require an economic history course of their PhD students, the University of California, Berkeley, being one.
The best way of demonstrating the value of economic history to an economist, I would argue, is by doing economic history. So when we teach economic history to PhD students in economics in Berkeley, we don’t spend much time talking about the value of history. Instead, we teach articles and address problems, and leave it to the students, as it were, to figure how this style of work might be applied to this own research. For every self-identifying economic historian we produce, we have several PhD students with have a historical chapter, or a historical essay, or an historical aspect to their dissertations. That’s a measure of success.
Sniderman: Well, thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed it.
Eichengreen: Thank you. So have I.

11 abril 2012

Ben Bernanke

Um reportagem sobre Ben Shalom Bernanke, o atual preseidente do FED. Eis alguns trechos interessantes:

Ben Bernanke ainda tem quase dois anos pela frente no comando do Federal Reserve (Fed, o banco central americano), mas o seu legado já começa a ser escrito, num momento em que a economia americana dá sinais de se recuperar de forma mais forte do que o esperado, alavancando a candidatura do presidente Barack Obama para um segundo mandato.

Muito mais à vontade no papel de professor do que de "czar monetário", Bernanke deu quatro aulas na Universidade George Washington nas últimas duas semanas, cobrindo a história do século XIX para cá, incluindo as medidas que ele mesmo tomou para evitar que o mundo mergulhasse numa nova Grande Depressão

(...)Menos confortável, o tímido e reservado Bernanke também concedeu entrevistas para alguns dos veículos de comunicação mais importantes do país, incluindo a revista "The Atlantic", que publicou um longo perfil. Na capa, uma foto de Bernanke, com a manchete "O Herói". Lá dentro, outra foto, sob o título "O Vilão".

(...)Bernanke procura acrescentar algumas linhas numa narrativa sobre seu trabalho à frente do Fed, que, num ano de eleições, está sendo escrita num ambiente de alta temperatura. Republicanos acusam Bernanke de empurrar perigosamente os Estados Unidos à beira de um abismo inflacionário. A esquerda diz que ele é fraco porque não foi mais ousado para baixar o desemprego.

(...)"É curioso que Bernanke tenha sido atacado pelos dois lados", diz Donald Kohn, vice-presidente do Fed até 2010, hoje pesquisador da Brookings Institution, centro de estudos de Washington. "Isso não significa que ter uma posição intermediária seja o correto, mas mostra que não há uma decisão clara ou óbvia para um lado ou para o outro."

Muitos acham que, dentro de 10 ou 20 anos, Bernanke será julgado de forma mais generosa. Ele já tem algo a mostrar. Os bancos americanos estão funcionando, enquanto na Europa o crédito segue obstruído. Os Estados Unidos poderão crescer mais de 3% neste ano nos cenários mais otimistas, nada extraordinário, mas melhor do que o risco de recessão da Europa. As empresas americanas estão criando cerca de 250 mil empregos por mês, contribuindo para uma queda do desemprego de 9,8% para 8,3% de novembro para cá, a mais intensa desde a década de 1980. Os preços dos imóveis parecem finalmente ter parado de cair.

Paul Volcker, com seu choque de juros, fez de Jimmy Carter um presidente de um só mandato, na virada dos anos 1970 para os anos 1980. Alan Greenspan derrubou Bush pai pouco mais de uma década depois. Agora, Bernanke ajuda a vitaminar Obama, cuja popularidade começa a encostar na casa de 50% pela primeira vez desde meados do ano passado, quando Osama bin Laden foi morto. "A economia está melhorando, e a aprovação do Obama melhora junto", diz Clifford Young, diretor da Ipsos Public Affairs, empresa de pesquisas de opinião pública. "Hoje, ele tem 85% de chance de ganhar as eleições.

(...)Ben Shalom Bernanke, 58 anos, foi criado em Dillon, pequena cidade na Carolina do Sul, na fase final da segregação racial. Era considerado gênio desde criança - aprendeu Cálculo sozinho e tirou nota 1.590 num total de 1.600 pontos possíveis no teste-padrão para admissão à universidade. Mas seus pais, um farmacêutico e uma professora primária, tinham planos modestos de enviá-lo a uma universidade local, onde ficaria sob vigilância próxima para evitar que se perdesse na vida. Só concordaram com sua ida para o Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) depois de uma conversa com um cliente da farmácia do pai de Bernanke, Kenneth Manning, afroamericano que virou professor da universidade depois de ter estudado numa escola segregada. Manning prometeu ficar de olho no jovem e fazê-lo frequentar uma sinagoga de Boston, onde fica o MIT.

O MIT tem um dos melhores cursos de economia do mundo, com uma tradição que vai de Paul Samuelson, autor do primeiro grande manual de macroeconomia de cursos de graduação, passa por Rudiger Dornbusch, estudioso dos sistemas cambiais, e chega aos Prêmios Nobel Franco Modigliani e Robert Solow, este último ainda vivo e em atividade. Entre os brasileiros, dois pais do Plano Real estudaram por lá, Pérsio Arida e André Lara Resende. O MIT parece dominar as decisões econômicas atuais, com seus quadros em alguns dos cargos mais importantes do mundo. Bernanke comanda o Fed, Olivier Blanchard é o economista-chefe do FMI e Mário Draghi preside o Banco Central Europeu (BCE).

Diferentemente da Universidade de Chicago, que tem uma linha ideológica inclinada à defesa do livre mercado, o MIT é uma escola muito mais pragmática, que transita sem preconceitos entre as várias linhas de pensamento econômico. "Talvez Bernanke tenha aprendido no MIT a ser essa pessoa ponderada, do meio-termo, que se preocupa com o desemprego, mas também com a inflação", diz o ex-aluno do MIT Laurence Ball, hoje professor da Universidade John Hopkins, de Washington.

A primeira grande produção acadêmica de Bernanke foi um trabalho sobre a Grande Depressão, publicado no começo da década de 1980 em parceria com Gertler, quando o hoje presidente do Fed já dava aulas na Universidade de Stanford. Os economistas Milton Friedman e Anna Schwartz haviam descrito, em 1963, como barbeiragens de política monetária do Fed haviam causado a Grande Depressão. Bernanke e Gertlher foram além, descrevendo os mecanismos de transmissão da crise pelo sistema financeiro, que se opera sobretudo pelo canal do crédito, jogando luz sobre um tema que era bastante obscuro para os economistas da época

(...)Preocupado com o risco de deflação durante a recessão causada pelo estouro da bolha acionária da internet, em 2001, Bernanke defendeu uma política monetária bastante relaxada e até o uso de instrumentos monetários não convencionais, caso a coisa ficasse mais grave. Ele ficou conhecido como "Helicóptero Ben", por ter se referido à proposta de Friedman de lançar dinheiro com helicóptero, num discurso feito em 2002 que delineou a chamada "Doutrina Bernanke", um roteiro agressivo para combater riscos deflacionários.

Hoje, ele minimiza a culpa dos juros ultrabaixos na criação da bolha que estourou a partir de 2007. "A política monetária não teve um papel importante no aumento dos preços de imóveis", disse Bernanke na semana passada, numa de suas aulas na universidade. Outros países, como a Inglaterra, tiveram bolhas imobiliárias na mesma época, apesar de ter juros mais altos. Os preços dos imóveis começaram a subir nos Estados Unidos em 1998, argumentou, antes de o Fed baixar os juros.

(...)"O Lehman Brothers era provavelmente grande demais para falir, no sentido de que sua falência teve enormes impactos para o sistema financeiro global", disse Bernanke nesta semana, em outra aula. "Mas estávamos impotentes, pois era essencialmente uma empresa insolvente." Não havia muito espaço legal, nem disposição política, para um resgate puro-sangue com dinheiro público. "Não acho que, no fim das contas, eles tinham outra opção senão deixar o Lehman Brothers falir", afirmou Olson.

Poucos, porém, fazem reparos à atuação de Bernanke a partir de então, quando a crise bancária ganhou contornos dramáticos e exigiu medidas muito mais agressivas. Dois dias depois da quebra do Lehman Brothers, a seguradora AIG recebeu um socorro de US$ 85 bilhões do Fed. Bernanke agiu para que a Merrill Lynch fosse adquirida pelo Bank of America. O governo americano anunciou, numa questão de dias, a criação de um fundo de US$ 700 bilhões para injetar capital e adquirir ativos problemáticos de instituições financeiras debilitadas. "Os Estados Unidos e o mundo foram muito felizes em ter Bernanke à frente das decisões, alguém que aprendeu as lições da história", afirma Olson.

Já a ação monetária de Bernanke, porém, é cercada de controvérsia. Os economistas mais ortodoxos dizem que a maciça emissão de dinheiro pelo Fed, em operações conhecidas como expansões quantitativas, são ineficazes para reanimar a economia e vão levar a uma inexorável aceleração inflacionária. O balanço do Fed atingiu proporções gigantescas, com um volume de US$ 2,9 trilhões. Alguns sustentam que há razões estruturais por trás dos altos índices de desemprego atuais. Trabalhadores estão fora do mercado de trabalho há muito tempo e, por isso, perderam qualificações profissionais. Num ambiente como esse, estímulos monetários só levam a mais inflação.

Uma outra corrente de economistas, menos ortodoxa, diz que Bernanke tinha obrigação de fazer ainda mais para estimular a economia. O Fed tem dois mandatos principais, controlar a inflação e manter o pleno emprego. A inflação anda bem-comportada, com projeções abaixo de 2%, a meta perseguida pelo Fed. Já o desemprego, em 8,3%, está muito acima do nível de longo prazo para a economia americana, que membros do Fed calculam entre 5% e 6%.

Em tese, há muitos outros instrumentos monetários não convencionais à disposição para estimular a economia, considerando o que escreveu o próprio professor Bernanke antes de virar banqueiro central. Na década de 1990, o Japão passou por uma experiência bastante semelhante à dos Estados Unidos. Depois de uma crise financeira, o Banco do Japão baixou agressivamente a taxa de juros até virtualmente zero, um limite para as políticas monetárias convencionais. Em 1999, Bernanke criticou o Banco Central do Japão por não fazer mais e propôs um agressivo roteiro aos japoneses num famoso texto, "Política monetária japonesa: um caso de paralisia autoinduzida".

A caixa de ferramenta incluía deliberada desvalorização cambial, emissão de moeda para expandir gastos fiscais e uma meta de inflação mais alta, entre 3% e 4%, acima dos 2% que os bancos centrais de economias avançadas costumam perseguir. Em 2008, quando Bernanke se deparou com a "armadilha monetária" no mundo real, preferiu seguir um roteiro mais bem-comportado. "Tenho mais simpatia pelos banqueiros centrais agora do que há dez anos", brincou Bernanke no ano passado, respondendo a uma pergunta de um jornalista japonês sobre sua aparente mudança de posição. Ele sustentou que fez o necessário para enfrentar o risco deflacionário nos Estados Unidos.

"Ele ficou muito mais cauteloso", disse Ball, da Universidade John Hopkins, autor de um trabalho recente que comparou as visões do professor Bernanke com a do banqueiro central Bernanke. "Algumas pessoas dizem em tom de brincadeira que o real Bernanke foi sequestrado por extraterrestes e, no seu lugar, foi colocado alguém com exatamente a mesma aparência física, porém bem mais cauteloso."

(...)Hoje, a política monetária de Bernanke é criticada pelo ministro da Fazenda, Guido Mantega, como uma das peças da chamada "guerra cambial". O dinheiro impresso pelo Fed estaria reforçando os fluxos internacionais de capitais e levando à depreciação do dólar ante moedas de países emergentes, como o real. O dólar fraco seria um motor adicional da recuperação americana, enquanto o real forte leva à desindustrialização no Brasil.

"Acho que os brasileiros não têm muita razão nesse argumento", afirma Edwin Truman, do Peterson Institute for Internacional Economics, que dedicou a carreira a temas de finanças internacionais e exerceu uma alta posição no assessoramento no Fed de Volcker. "Se Bernanke tivesse sido menos agressivo na política monetária, talvez o dólar fosse mais forte, mas a economia americana ficaria mais fraca e a demanda dos Estados Unidos por exportações brasileiras seria menor." Se o Fed de Volcker tivesse tolerado inflação maior, argumenta, o resto do mundo também acabaria prejudicado.

Decisões de Bernanke mexem com o mundo todo, mas uma década em Washington não o mudou muito. Seu principal passatempo nos fins de semana é resolver palavras cruzadas com a mulher. Ele volta para casa todas as noites para ler livros em formato eletrônico no Kindle. Quando sai, é para assistir a jogos do time local de beisebol, o Washington Nacionals. Sua maior satisfação, porém, parece ser dar aulas e responder a perguntas de estudantes da Universidade George Washington. "É o que fiz por 23 anos, antes de entrar nessa linha de trabalho", disse, ao começar o curso.

04 fevereiro 2012

Debate: O fim do FED

O debate sobre o fim do Banco Central americano (o Fed) vem crescentemente ganhando tração, e ainda bem. Porém, assim como vários debates políticos, este é mais um debate que sequer deveria ser necessário. Tampouco deveria ser algo tido como controverso. Isso porque, se você parar para pensar a respeito, a simples ideia de existir um banco central em uma economia não faz absolutamente nenhum sentido.

Não existe hoje, graças aos céus, um repositório central — gerido pelo governo — para planejar e administrar a distribuição de sapatos. O mercado cuida desta tarefa com perfeição. Não há escassez de nenhum tamanho ou tipo de sapato. Da mesma maneira, não há nenhuma agência responsável por planejar e administrar a produção e a distribuição de alfaces, de teclados ou de cortinas. De alguma maneira, todos nós conseguimos obter livros, roupas, serviços de limpeza e tudo o mais de que necessitamos e desejamos sem que nenhuma agência de planejamento central administre a quantidade disponível destes itens e serviços, especifique os preços dos produtos e socorra as empresas quando elas se expandirem mais do que deveriam e se tornarem insolúveis.

Por que então a realidade deveria ser distinta para o dinheiro e para o setor bancário? O dinheiro é uma mercadoria. O setor bancário é um empreendimento como qualquer outro. Nenhum deles é criação do estado. Ambos surgiram no mercado e assim deveriam ter permanecido, pois somente assim a qualidade do produto poderia estar constantemente sujeita à disciplina imposta pelo mercado. Em uma economia de mercado, as coisas funcionam por si sós, sem a necessidade de nenhuma supervisão de um comitê central. Há demanda e há oferta para satisfazer esta demanda. Empreendedores atentos descobrem oportunidades de lucro no mercado e se apresentam para fazer com que haja oferta para satisfazer uma determinada demanda.

27 janeiro 2012

Mudança Histórica: FED adota sistema de metas de inflação

O banco central norte-americano está adotando uma postura que já é padrão para bancos centrais: estabelecer metas inflacionárias.

(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve took the historic step on Wednesday of setting an inflation target, a victory for Chairman Ben Bernanke that brings the Fed in line with many of the world's other major central banks.

The U.S. central bank, in its first ever "longer-run goals and policy strategy" statement, said an inflation rate of 2 percent best aligned with its congressionally mandated goals of price stability and full employment

Leia mais aqui.

03 julho 2011

Inspetora do FED

Por Pedro Correia

A senhora deste vídeo ,Elizabeth Coleman, é a inspetora do FED, que é responsável pela auditoria das contas do banco.Infelizmente, ela afirma ao deputado Alan Grayson que não sabe onde estão os trilhões de dólares, que o FED doou para os bancos.É uma lástima.

27 junho 2011

Como gastar dinheiro fazendo dinheiro

Por Pedro Correia
O FED (banco central americano) possui mais de 1 bilhão em moedas de dólar em todos os seus cofres nos EUA .Essa quantidade enorme de dinheiro, é o resultado de uma lei de 2005, que exige que a Casa da Moeda dos EUA imprima uma série de moedas com a semelhança de cada presidente norte-americano.A razão para este acúmulo nos cofres é a rejeição do povo norte-americano para estas moedas. No momento em que o programa termina em 2016, o Fed possuirá mais 2 bilhões de moedas indesejadas em seus cofres.Detalhe: o custo total de fabricação será de 600 milhões de dólares.

Fonte: aqui

09 outubro 2008

Legado de Greenspan

Não só as instituições financeiras individuais tornaram-se menos vulneráveis a choques de fatores de risco subjacentes, mas também o sistema financeiro como um todo tornou-se mais resistente.

Alan Greenspan em 2004

Quando Greenspan deixou o seu posto no governo dos EUA elogios foram publicados a sua gestão frente ao sistema financeiro. Agora, o New York Times e o Herald Tribune(Taking hard look at a Greenspan legacy, Peter S. Goodman, 9/10/2008) analisam o papel de Greenspan na atual crise.

04 junho 2008

A história da venda da Bear Stearns

O jornal Wall Street Journal publicou uma série de reportagens sobre a venda da Bear Stearns para o J.P. Morgan (aqui, aqui e aqui. Veja também aqui)

O texto foi publicado no Brasil pelo Valor Econômico (aqui e aqui).

Destaco, a seguir, alguns trechos:

Os rumores em Wall Street eram de que a Bear Stearns estava precisando de dinheiro.O diretor-presidente garantiu calmamente aos seus subordinados que o Bear Stearns conseguiria suportar a tempestade. "Isso", disse ele "é muito barulho."Na platéia, Michael Minikes não estava tão convencido. O veterano de 65 anos da Bear Stearns havia passado grande parte daquela semana atendendo ligações telefônicas de clientes preocupados. Alguns já haviam sacado grandes somas de suas contas na Bear Stearns."Você tem algum idéia do que está acontecendo?", perguntou Minikes, interrompendo seu chefe. "Nosso dinheiro está voando pela porta. (...)

A queda súbita da corretora foi um lembrete perfeito da fragilidade e ferocidade de um sistema financeiro erguido em grande parte sobre a confiança. Bilhões de dólares em títulos são negociados todos os dias com nada mais que um acordo implícito de que os parceiros nos negócios os pagarão quando solicitados. Quando os investidores começaram a achar que a Bear Stearns não conseguiria liquidar seus negócios com os clientes, essa confiança acabou num segundo.

Sangria de 72 horas derrubou reputação erguida em 85 anos
Valor Econômico – 30/5/2008

Na verdade, equipes do JP Morgan e da J.C. Flowers & Co., empresa especializada em aquisições alavancadas, já estavam na sede da Bear Stearns na Madison Avenue, analisando sua contabilidade.

O resgate era visto como um sinal de fraqueza, em vez de esperança.No fim do dia, quase 190 milhões de ações da Bear Stearns haviam mudado de mãos - 17 vezes mais que a média diária - e o preço havia caído 47% a US$ 30 a ação.

O banco [JP Morgan] havia ficado com medo depois que seus diretores seniores retornaram à Park Avenue após a avaliação da contabilidade da Bear Stearns. Além de perder clientes, a firma estava enfrentando uma série de processos por causa do colapso de dois fundos de hedge seus no verão anterior, e seu grande portfólio hipotecário havia ficado muito exposto a novos problemas no mercado imobiliário.

O negócio foi aprovado, os mercados abriram tranqüilamente e a maioria dos investidores permaneceu feliz, sem perceber as turbulências da semana. Ainda assim, para a Bear Stearns, o governo federal e o JP Morgan, foi um desfecho insatisfatório.Os investidores da Bear Stearns "engoliram o sapo", de uma maneira menos dolorosa que a vislumbrada por Paulson. O Fed conseguiu estabilizar os mercados, mas colocando em risco dezenas de bilhões de dólares e estabelecendo um precedente desconfortável. E o JP Morgan ficou com os clientes, os funcionários talentosos de Bear Stearns e um novo prédio por uma pechincha. Mas agora ele está com obrigações de pelo menos US$ 9 bilhões e a tarefa de integrar duas culturas corporativas muito diferentes.O índice Dow Jones não caiu 2.000 pontos, outras corretoras de valores não quebraram e o sistema financeiro mundial não entrou em colapso - embora tenha respirado com dificuldade. Quanto aos riscos, o moral e outros, que espreitam o futuro, eles terão que tomar conta de si mesmos.

Venda da Bear foi fechada em 48 horas
Valor Econômico - 2/6/2008