Category Archives: Sectoral financial balances

The new darlings of Wall Street: The folly of oil fracking investing

 

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[Acknowledgment: Thanks to Edward Worsdell for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this post.]

In a recent post we took a deep dive into the debate over whether the US stock market is expensive or not. We concluded that i) the market is indeed quite expensive, ii) the market is not in a ‘bubble’ territory, but rather higher equity valuations on average should be considered the new normal (on the proviso that this new normal state of affairs should not be used to justify current equity valuations), and iii) historical standards can be a deceptive guide in predicting future equity returns and should be used with caution.

However, the market, taken as a whole, has a wide range of investment opportunities. We can find situations where a sector is cheap for a particular reason (e.g. the US retail sector) or situations where a company is trading at mind-blowing multiples because the market is discounting unrealistic expectations about future growth prospects, as in the case of Tesla, with a market capitalisation now higher than well established competitors like Ford or General Motors.

But this post is not about the fate of investors in a single company like Tesla or whether this is an attractive investment or not (we think it is not). Rather, this post will zero in on a sector that has been gaining increasing media attention, a sector that is considered to be the new pride of American industry, one that is highly leveraged and in which Wall Street investment banks have so much at stake in it. Continue reading

A financial balances comment on the US trade balance and Trump’s economic proposals (Part I)

 

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[This post was co-written with Rafael Wildauer, lecturer at Kingston University Business School, who is doing research on the links between income and wealth distribution, credit, growth and financial stability].

It has been almost one year ago from our latest comprehensive report on the US economy, and although we are currently writing our second report which will be published soon (it took us longer than expected, given that our model has undergone several modifications, the most important one being a private sector split between households and businesses), we wanted to share a couple of thoughts with our readers on the current state of the US economy, especially since the election of president Donald Trump in November. The economic proposals the incoming Trump administration are supposed to bring are important, and if eventually fulfilled, we think they will have a clear impact on the economy over the medium-term. In this first part of a two-post series, we will review the recent evolution of the balance of payments and, in the second one, we will go through the effects of Trump’s economic proposals on the future path of the US sectoral financial balances.

While many observers are bewildered by the first steps of the Trump administration, economically the US seems to be doing fine, with GDP growth around 2.5 in 2014 and 2015 and an improving current account. A closer look however shows that the recovery of the current account was strongly driven by an improving oil balance. The trade deficit ex-oil increased over the last three years. A likely explanation is that the US grew faster than some of its main trading partners (notably Europe), which led to a deterioration of the trade balance. Thus, under the economic proposals by the incoming Trump administration and not much further room for an improving oil balance, the current account might deteriorate again. Continue reading

Our reading of Pettis’ reading of the FT article ‘glimpse of China’s economic future’

 

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Michael Pettis has recently published a post discussing an article that appeared in the FT some weeks ago, authored by Gabriel Wildau, Yuan Yang and Tom Mitchell, which discussed the economic dilemmas China will have to face in the (near) future given the current high levels of corporate debt and (still) high levels of corporate investment. We found both Pettis’ post and Wildau et al. article very interesting and quite similar in spirit to what we have written several times (here and here), and because we have not published anything on China for several months, we thought it could be a good time to provide a brief update of our views.

But first, it may be useful for our readers to explain briefly the main arguments posed by Wildau et al. and Pettis, respectively. The main goal of the FT article is to go through three different counterfactual rebalancing scenarios, discussing also the extent to which they could happen or not. Although the hypothetical scenarios are discussed in a heuristic way and the article does not crunch any numbers in detail (as we usually do, or for that matter, Pettis), we cannot but agree on the importance of that approach. Because several economic variables are, in principle, politically determined by Beijing, the dynamics of the Chinese economy are more ‘deterministic’ than in any other economy of the world, so the paths that the rebalancing process can take can be reduced to a handful of possible scenarios.

The first possible scenario proposed by the FT article (the most optimistic one by any standard), which we can dub ‘the conventional wisdom up to now’, posits that because consumption and the needs of the Chinese population (holidays, healthcare, education, and so on) are growing, there is an ‘unlimited demand’ for everything. According to this scenario, we are told that the growth in consumption will fill the void left by investment, and that the rebalancing process will proceed smoothly with high GDP growth rates and no major financial disruption. Continue reading

Del superávit fiscal alemán al desequilibrio en la economía global: ¿cómo solucionarlo?

 

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[Artículo publicado originalmente en El Confidencial]

Después de un verano tranquilo en los mercados (más allá de la publicación de los inventarios de crudo a principios de agosto que animaron el mercado del petróleo durante unos días), las turbulencias han vuelto para el nuevo curso. Y no es para menos. Los desequilibrios macroeconómicos globales que estuvieron en todas las portadas a finales del 2015 y principios del 2016 no se han corregido, sino más bien lo contrario, han aumentado.

Uno de esos desequilibrios es la posición fiscal superavitaria del gobierno alemán, al tiempo que es uno de los más importantes del mundo y peor entendidos. A finales de agosto se dio a conocer el número del saldo fiscal alemán, que ascendió a 18,5 billones de euros, en torno al 1,2% sobre el PIB, superando así el ya elevado dato de 2015 (0,6%) y también las conservadoras proyecciones que presentó el FMI antes de verano en un informe detallado sobre la economía alemana, en donde el organismo presidido por Christine Lagarde esperaba para todo el 2016 un déficit del 0,1%.

Incluso el FMI, una institución abiertamente conservadora en cuanto al debate fiscal se refiere, recomendaba en el citado informe (p.22) que “es apropiado el uso del espacio fiscal disponible para financiar inversión pública y políticas fiscales pro-crecimiento, con el fin de elevar el crecimiento a largo plazo y ayudar también a reducir el superávit en la cuenta corriente”. Continue reading

The Kingston Financial Balances Model and the external sector consequences of Mr. Sanders

 

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[This post was co-written with Rafael Wildauer, Ph.D. Candidate at Kingston University, who is doing research on the links between income and wealth distribution, credit, growth and financial stability]

We are pleased to present our first report on the US economy using a model we have developed together over the last year. We will only provide here a brief summary with the main conclusions; interested readers can read the whole report for free here. Senator Sander’s economic program (and the discussion that has erupted in the last few weeks) has provided us with a nice example of why having a simple but holistic model of the US economy can help a lot in discussing economic policy issues and in dispelling ‘half-way’ economic reasoning. Because a copy-paste strategy from the report would be boring for the readers of the blog, we have decided to add a brief analysis of the Mr. Sander’s economic program as an example of the usefulness of the model advocated here. We think it is worth discussing what has been left out by Gerald Friedman as well as by his critics – notably Christina and David Romer. If you already read the original report, then you can skip the first section and go directly to the section dealing with Mr. Sanders’ economic program.

The Kingston Financial Balances model (KFBM)

First, a few words about the model. The Kingston Financial Balances Model (KFBM) is a stock-flow-consistent (SFC) model that tracks the evolution of the main variables of the US economy. A SFC model is, in a nutshell, a framework that ensures that all real and financial flows of an economy accumulate into stocks over time. For many people (e.g. engineers, physicists and accountants), we are sure this definition will not be very innovative. But in economic modelling, it is. Most of the economic modelling is carried out without any concern for the accounting consistency of real world economies. At the most basic level, such models simply estimate ‘sophisticated’ econometric equations for the GDP components (i.e. consumption, investment, etc.), and then they sum them up to come up with a (usually short-term) forecast for GDP, but without mentioning the implications of these expenditures for the financial positions of the different sectors of the economy. At a more advanced level, exemplified for instance by the Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) models, the sophistication falls on a rational description of the agents of the economy, but again, with little concern for the accounting consistency of the framework. In other words, economists have been in general very busy to come up with more sophisticated models, but accounting consistency is not among the top priorities.

Continue reading

The economic consequences of Mr. Osborne – or rather, of Mr. Godley

 

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Just ten years ago, the British economist Wynne Godley, distinguished scholar at the Levy Institute at the time, published a short policy note entitled “Some Unpleasant American Arithmetic”, which addressed the problems the American economy was going to face in the near future (for a more in-depth discussion, see this report he co-authored the same year with some Levy scholars). It is worth quoting one of the paragraphs in full:

The private sector balance was negative 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2005 – some 4 percent below its long-term average – mainly because there has been a furious housing boom financed by exceptionally high borrowing. It is noteworthy that between 1952 and 1997, there was not a single whole year during which the private sector balance was negative. If, during the next four years, the private sector balance were to recover halfway to normal (i.e., to zero), implying a large fall in private expenditure relative to income, and if the deficit in the current account remains at 6 percent, the general government deficit must rise to equal the current account deficit, that is, it must rise to 6 percent. This number follows arithmetically because, as already pointed out, the budget deficit is equal, by definition, to the current account deficit plus the private sector balance. If the private sector balance were to return to its long-term average (plus 1.8 percent), as might easily happen if the housing boom were to collapse, the government deficit would have to rise to nearly 8 percent of GDP.

For readers not accustomed to financial balances language, remember that by definition the balances of the three main sectors of the economy (private, government and foreign) have to add up to zero. What Godley was saying then is that with a 2.2% deficit (as a percentage of GDP) in the private sector and a 6.0% deficit in the current account, then the government was at the time running a deficit of around 3.8%. Nothing surprising so far. But Godley’s point was that government budget forecasts, which were projecting to “cut the federal deficit in half during the next four years”, were simply untenable: as the previous paragraph shows, Godley was expecting something closer to a deficit of 8%, otherwise “United States will, at best, encounter a prolonged growth recession under the (conservative) stated assumptions about international trade and the private sector balance.” The balance of payments was a powerful constraint on the ability of government to cut its deficits, if a recession had to be avoided. And, as it happens, he was quite right about the gloomy prospects for the US, especially at a time when apparently the “state of macro” was good and depressions were supposed to be a thing of the past. Continue reading

¿De verdad no había datos para haber visto la burbuja inmobiliaria española? El “No one saw it coming” versión española

 

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A finales de 2008, la reina de Inglaterra fue invitada a la London School of Economics (LSE) para la inauguración de un nuevo edificio. Tal hecho seguramente no vaya a quedar en el imaginario colectivo por la propia inauguración, sino porque la reina en cierto momento preguntó a Luis Garicano, economista español de la LSE: “If it was so large, why did nobody see it coming?”, cuestionando de este modo a la profesión económica por su falta de antelación respecto a la crisis financiera global que sacudió al mundo en 2007-2008. Desde entonces, dicha frase ha sido utilizada ampliamente tanto como motivo de sátira hacia los economistas que alabaron las virtudes de la “Gran Moderación” como defensa de aquellos economistas que sí vieron venir la crisis y alertaron de sus consecuencias.

Esta semana, el director de Estudios del Banco de España, José Luis Malo de Molina, ha sido invitado para dar una conferencia en la Fundación de Estudios Inmobiliarios, que, al igual que la visita de la reina a la LSE, probablemente no pase a los anales de la historia por su propósito principal (en este caso analizar la evolución actual del sector inmobiliario español), sino más bien por la afirmación de Malo de Molina de que “la falta de estadísticas de calidad dificultó contar con un diagnóstico sólido y temprano” de la crisis inmobiliaria, para más tarde afirmar que hay que apostar por una política “macroprudencial” para prevenir nuevas crisis en el futuro. Tal afirmación respecto a la falta de datos es realmente sorprendente, ya que no sólo admite abiertamente que el Banco de España “didn’t see it coming” (algo que ha comprobado la economía española en los últimos siete años), sino que además las razones no son teóricas, sino de falta de datos. Dicho argumento es inquietante, ya que el Banco de España en teoría es el regulador del sistema financiero español, y como tal debería haber tenido un conocimiento al dedillo de los balances (y de la valoración de los activos) de las entidades financieras españolas. Reconocer falta de datos implica de este modo reconocer falta de labor supervisora en el nivel global e individual. Y la necesidad de una política macroprudencial por la que ahora aboga es básicamente evaluar la situación del volumen del total del crédito respecto a alguna otra variable relevante (p.ej. precios de activos inmobiliarios). Esto lo puede hacer ahora, e igual de bien lo podía haber hecho hace 10 años. Continue reading

A glance at the British economy using the financial balances approach

 

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(This is the translation of a previous entry).

Lately the British economy has been causing some stir in the United Kingdom, given the proximity of the next elections in May. George Osborne presented some weeks ago his proposals for the next term (in case of being re-elected), and since then there have been quite a few analysis on the evolution of the British economy over the short and medium term (here for a deep analysis). I think then it is worthwhile to make a few points on the evolution of the British economy up to now.

We think the best way to understand the British economy is through the sectoral financial balances approach. Such balances are simply the sectoral net lending/net borrowing positions in a given year (flow variables), and (needless to say) their sum have to add up to zero. The sectors are five: households, government, non-financial corporations, financial corporations and the rest of the world. However, in order to simplify, households and corporations are sometimes mixed into a single sector, the “private sector”. Such financial balances approach (and let me be a bit optimistic) has been gaining popularity in the UK in the last few years, being Martin Wolf (among others) one of its main proponents (here and here).

Our analysis will focus on the following graph, which shows the evolution of the quarterly sectoral balances as a share of GDP since 1987:

UK, Financial balances (4 sectors) as % of GDP, 1987'1Q - 2014'3Q

As you can see, the balances provide in a neat way a lot of useful information. For instance, until the beginning of 2000s the corporate sector was running deficits and the household sector was running surpluses, a state of facts considered to be conventional in economic analysis (firms invest and households provide financial resources), but since then the corporate sector has been running surpluses (even above 4%) and households have considerably gone into debt. Our readers will see that these corporate surpluses (similar to corporate profits, but not the same thing) have been helped by ‘generous’ government spending (around 6%), given that at the macroeconomic level expansionary fiscal policies boost corporate profits (see a previous entry for the US case). It is also worth pointing out the poor performance of the British current account, since it has been in deficit (with two short-lived exceptions in 1995 and 1998) through the whole series, reaching its peak in the third quarter of 2014, standing at a 6% of GDP (remember that the balance of the rest of the world is considered from the point of view of the rest of the world, so a positive balance means a deficit and vice versa). Although the British current account will be addressed in a future post, it must be remembered that, in virtue of the financial balances accounting identity, a deficit in the current account acts as an important restriction on the evolution of the rest of the sectors, as we will see in a while.

This may seem interesting in itself, but the readers may be wondering what the connection is between financial balances and, for instance, GDP. The next graph shows the same financial balances (but households and firms are now consolidated) and the evolution of GDP since 1987:

UK, Financial balances as % of GDP, 1987'1Q - 2014'3Q

You can see that the private sector financial balance has been one of the main engines in the change in GDP – at least in the last 15 years. The private sector financial balance was positive in mid-1990s (around 4%), but then it was negative at the beginning of 2000s. This means that the private sector was selling assets (or accumulating debt) during this period, having thus a positive impact on GDP. The same mechanism, although to a lesser extent, was working after the dot-com crash (but in this case, as you can see in graph 1, households were calling the shots). Both crisis, 2000 and 2008, allowed private sector to fix its financial balance (through expansionary fiscal policies), although in both cases this effect was not long-lasting. The latest numbers for the British economy show that the private sector is in deficit again. The worst aspect is that in this case, and unlike the two previous decades, such change in the private sector financial position since 2009 (from a surplus of 8%) has barely contributed to the growth of the British economy in the last few years: although it can be argued that 2013 and 2104 have been relatively good years for the UK economy, the performance in the previous years was quite disappointing (see this Wren-Lewis’ post for a critique against those who are bullish on UK growth).

The “exorbitant burden” of living in Mayfair 

In the 1960s, the French Minister of Economy and Finance, Valéry Giscard, coined the sentence “the exorbitant privilege”, in reference to the US economy. This sentence now belongs to the economists’ argot, and it is used to mean the US capacity to finance huge deficits in the current account in a recurrent manner, “thanks” to the fact that the dollar is considered the main reserve currency. According to many economists, this has been very beneficial to the US economy in economic terms (among others, cheaper funding). However, the economist Michael Pettis has recently argued (convincingly, from our point of view) why such privilege is actually a “exorbitant burden”, given that (in a nutshell) high capital inflows (as in the case of the US, given the “quality “of its currency and assets) lead to a surplus in the financial account, which means a deficit in the current account (reminder: the current account has to be equal to the financial account, but with opposite sign, since exports and imports of goods have to be financed somehow). In other words, Pettis argues that capital inflows will provoke sooner or later current account deficits, and so if you want to understand the evolution of the balance of payments is more enlightening to pay attention to capital flows (as causa prima) than to goods and services.

Some parallelism can be found between this “exorbitant burden” in the US and its counterpart in the UK. True, the sterling does not have the same status in international markets as the dollar does, but the British economy has been persistently running deficits in the current account; if we take the parallelism one step further, we could say that the main British asset considered to be “reserve” at the international level (provoking huge capital inflows) is the real estate: after several years of marked rises in the price of British houses, in 2014 prices rose 8.3%, whereas in London such increase was a mind-blowing 21%. Even the rough anecdotical evidence suggests that something is going on in London: in the first half of 2014 a flat was sold (nothing to write home about, just in case the reader is wondering) in Mayfair for 140 million pounds. Such record has made me think at the aggregate level of the implications of the real estate bubble and the “exorbitant burden” of having houses at these prices.

If we really think that the current account deficit is given by financial considerations and we think that it cannot go under 3%-4% of GDP in the following couple of years (a modest hypothesis given the historical experience and the recent real estate bubble), then the scenarios for the future British government are quite narrow. Even with lower oil prices and the Eurozone recovery during this year (but with a more unfavourable euro-pound exchange rate), if the government keeps pushing spending down, then the private sector will go further into deficit – even if we assume that the balance of payments absorbs some part of the spending cuts. Therefore, we think that the private sector has little margin to contribute to GDP growth in the short-medium term.

At any rate, it will be interesting to follow in the next few weeks how the media and the various political factions offer their analysis on the strengths and weaknesses of the British economy.

Un vistazo a la economía británica usando los saldos financieros sectoriales

 

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Últimamente la economía británica está dando que hablar en el Reino Unido, dada la proximidad de las siguientes elecciones en Mayo. George Osborne presentó hace un par de semanas sus propuestas para la nueva legislatura (en caso de su partido salir reelegido), y desde entonces ha habido bastantes análisis sobre cuál será la evolución de la economía británica en el corto y medio plazo (aquí para un análisis profundo). Creo entonces que es un buen momento para echar un vistazo a la evolución de la economía británica hasta la fecha.

Creemos que la mejor manera de entender en qué situación se encuentra la economía británica es a través de los saldos financieros de cada uno de los sectores de la economía (llamados en inglés “financial balances” y generalmente mal traducidos a nuestra lengua como “balances financieros”). Dichos saldos son ni más ni menos que la capacidad o necesidad de financiación de cada sector en un ejercicio económico concreto (son por tanto una variable flujo), y obviamente la suma de todos los saldos debe sumar cero. Los sectores son cinco (hogares, gobierno, empresas no financieras, empresas financieras y resto del mundo), aunque generalmente por motivos de análisis (y simplificación) los hogares y las empresas se suelen mezclar en uno sólo llamado “sector privado”. Dicha perspectiva de saldos sectoriales es (permítanme ser optimista) bastante popular en Reino Unido, ya que Martin Wolf (reconocido columnista en el FT), entre otros, la ha ido popularizando con el paso de los años (aquí y aquí).

Nuestro análisis se va a centrar sobre el siguiente gráfico, que muestran la evolución de los saldos sectoriales como porcentaje del PIB cada trimestre desde 1987:

UK, Financial balances (4 sectors) as % of GDP, 1987'1Q - 2014'3Q

Como se puede ver, dichos saldos proporcionan de manera resumida mucha información valiosa. Por ejemplo, que hasta a principios de la década de los 2000 el sector empresarial estaban incurriendo en déficits  y los hogares en superávits, cosa que se considera “convencional” en análisis econónomico (las empresas invierten y los hogares proporcionan los recursos financieros), pero que desde entonces el sector corporativo ha estado incurriendo en superávits (superiores incluso al 4%) y los hogares se han endeudado considerablemente. Nuestros lectores podrán adivinar que dichos superávits empresariales (que guardan una cierta relación con los beneficio empresariales, pero que no son lo mismo) han estado ayudados por un “generoso” gasto público (en torno al 6%), ya que a nivel agregado políticas fiscales expansivas impulsan a los beneficios empresariales (ver nuestra anterior entrada para una explicación en el caso de EEUU). Conviene también señalar el pobre desenvolvimiento de la cuenta corriente de la balanza de pagos británica (el saldo neto de las transacciones de bienes y servicios y rentas con el resto del mundo), ya que en toda la serie desde 1987 (con dos breves excepciones en 1995 y 1998) ha sido deficitaria, alcanzando su récord en el tercer trimestre de 2014, con un 6% de déficit (recuerden que los saldos del resto del mundo se ven desde la perspectiva del resto del mundo, con lo que un saldo positiva significa un déficit y viceversa). Aunque trataremos de la balanza de pagos británica en otro post, conviene señalar que en virtud de la ecuación contable que dice que todos los saldos sectoriales deben sumar cero, una balanza de pagos deficitaria es una fuerte restricción para el comportamiento del resto de los sectores, como ahora veremos en un momento.

Esto puede parecer interesante, pero los lectores se preguntarán cuál es el impacto de todo esto sobre, por ejemplo, el PIB. El siguiente gráfico muestra los mismos saldos sectoriales (aunque ahora hogares y empresas están consolidados) así como la evolución del PIB en los últimos años:

UK, Financial balances as % of GDP, 1987'1Q - 2014'3Q

Puede verse que el saldo del sector privado ha sido el principal motor de los movimiento en el PIB – al menos en los últimos 15 años. Desde mediados de los 90 el saldo financiero del sector privado paso de estar en terreno positivo (en torno al 4%) a entrar en terreno negativo a principios de la década de los 2000. Esto significa que el sector privado estuvo desacumulando activos (o acumulando deuda) durante este período, con el consiguiente impacto positivo sobre el PIB. La misma tendencia, a menor escala, ocurrió en la década de los 2000 después del crash de las punto.com (aunque como verán en el gráfico 1, dentro del sector privado fueron los hogares en este caso los que llevaron la voz cantante). Ambas crisis, tanto la del 2000 como la del 2008, permitieron reparar momentáneamente el balance del sector privado (gracias a politicales fiscales expansivas), aunque en ambos casos no por mucho tiempo. Los últimos números de la economía británica permiten ver que el sector privado ya ha entrado en déficit. Lo peor es que dicho cambio del sector privado desde el 2009 (desde un superávit del 8% hasta el cero actual), a diferencia de las dos décadas anteriores, apenas ha contribuido al crecimiento de la economía en los últimos años: si bien es cierto que Reino Unido ha cerrado un buen 2014 y 2013, los anteriores años fueron bastante planos (para una crítica a los optimistas sobre el crecimiento británico, ver este post de Wren-Lewis).

La “exorbitante carga” de vivir en Mayfair 

En la década de 1960, el ministro de economía francés Valery Giscard acuñó la frase “the exorbitant privilege” en referencia a la economía estadounidense. Dicho término ha pasado a formar parte del argot económico para referirse a la capacidad de EEUU de financiar enormes déficits en la cuenta corriente de manera recurrente y sin (aparentemente) apenas esfuerzo, “gracias” al hecho de que el dólar es considerado como reserva mundial. Según muchos economistas, esto le ha traído a EEUU enormes privilegios en términos económicos (como financiarse a tipos más bajos, entre otros). Sin embargo, el economista Michael Pettis ha argumentado recientemente (y de manera convincente) por qué dicho privilegio es en realidad un “exorbitant burden”, dado que (en breves palabras) las economías con fuertes entradas de capitales (como es el caso de EEUU dada la condición de reserva o refugio de sus activos) tienen superávit en la cuenta financiera de la balanza de pagos, lo que significa déficit en la cuenta corriente (recuerde el lector que la cuenta corriente siempre tiene que ser igual que la cuenta financiera, pero con signo invertido, ya que las exportaciones e importaciones de mercancías se tienen que financiar de algún modo). En otras palabras, Pettis argumenta que las entradas de capitales acaban provocando tarde o temprano déficits en la cuenta corriente, y que por lo tanto para entender los movimientos en la balanza de pagos resulta más instructivo prestar atención a los movimientos de capitales (como causa prima) que a los movimientos de bienes y servicios.

Se puede encontrar un cierto paralelismo entre esta “carga exorbitante” de EEUU y su homólogo en Reino Unido. Es cierto que la libra no tiene el mismo estatus que el dólar en los mercados internacionales, pero sí es cierto que la economía británica ha tenido deficits en la cuenta corriente de manera persistente; si seguimos con el paralelismo de Pettis, podríamos decir que el principal activo británico que tiene la categoría de “reserva” a nivel internacional (y que ha provocado las entradas masivas de capitales) es el real estate: tras varios años de pronunciadas subidas en los precios de la vivienda británica, en 2014 los precios subieron un 8,3% mientras que en Londres dicha subida fue del 21%. Hasta la evidencia anecdótica de andar por casa sugiere que algo pasa en el Real Estate de Londres: en la primera mitad de 2014 se vendió un piso (nada del otro mundo, no se crean) en el barrio de Mayfair por 140 millones de libras. Dicho récord me ha servido para pensar a nivel agregado sobre las implicaciones de la burbuja del real estate y de la “exorbitante carga” de tener casas valoradas a dichos precios.

Si realmente pensamos que el déficit en la balanza de pagos está dado por consideraciones financieras y que no creemos que baje del 3%-4% en los próximos dos años (una hipótesis realista dada su evolución histórica y la burbuja más reciente del real estate), entonces los escenarios para el futuro gobierno de Reino Unido son bastante reducidos. Incluso con precios del petróleo más bajos y recuperación de la eurozona en el 2015 (aunque con un tipo de cambio euro/libra más desfavorable para Reino Unido), si el gobierno decide seguir reduciendo su déficit el sector privado entrará en territorio más negativo aún, incluso si asumimos que parte de dicha reducción en el deficit gubernamental ayude a reducir el déficit en balanza de pagos. Por lo tanto, creemos que el sector privado tendrá poco margen en el corto plazo para contribuir positivamente al PIB y que además no mejorará sustancialmente su posición financiera. Será interesante ver en las próximas semanas como los miembros de las varias facciones políticas ofrecen sus puntos de vista sobre las fortalezas y debilidades de la economía británica.