Die Schulden­formel signalisiert zumindest „gelb“

Olivier Blanchard, langjähriger IWF-Chefvolkswirt, hat sich in der Vergangenheit immer entspannt gezeigt, wenn es um Staatsschulden ging. Schließlich wären die Zinsen so tief. Und wenn nicht, dann müsse man die Schulden einfach monetisieren:

Der Ex-Chef-Ökonom des IWF erklärt, was kommen muss: „Monetarisierung“

Eine Inflation und Zinswende weiter klingt das plötzlich ganz anders.

Es geht um die wichtigste Größe für finanzielle Stabilität:

  • „The most important fiscal relationship, the gap between real rates and long-term growth (‚r minus g‘), has gone from negative to near-zero.“ – bto: Das bedeutet, dass die Schulden relativ zum Bruttoinlandsprodukt steigen, sofern man nicht einen Teil der Zinsen auf den ausstehenden Schulden aus den Steuereinnahmen bezahlt. Und das machen Politiker sehr ungern.
  • Olivier Blanchard, MIT professor, IMF chief economist during the global financial crisis, (…) is worried about where the fiscal story ends. In a blog post this month, he lays out the ultra-narrow path governments must walk: reducing fiscal burdens slowly enough to avoid killing demand, but quickly enough to soothe bond investors, all while investing in military readiness and climate mitigation.“ – bto: Klar, sobald man echt für die Zinsen zahlen muss, kann man das alles nicht mehr und es gibt die Gefahr steigender Schulden und Zinsen.
  • Unhedged: You make a distinction in your blog post between high debt ratios, which are somewhat inevitable given our political situation, and a debt explosion. How do we know when we have crossed that line? And what are the consequences of an explosion?Olivier Blanchard: That’s indeed the issue. Visually, one is a convex curve, which explodes, and one is a concave curve, which converges to some level.“ – bto: So weit, so gut.
  • The simple case is where r minus g is zero, roughly where we are today. Then you just ask: is there a plan to actually get primary deficits to zero in some finite time, in a credible way? (…) That’s how you decide when one is okay and the other is not.“ – bto: Das Primärdefizit ist das Defizit vor Zinszahlungen. Ist es Null, leiht sich der Staat genau das Geld, welches er für die Zinszahlungen benötigt.
  • And why are long rates rising? Blanchard: That’s the trillion-dollar question. There are a number of possible factors. The first thing is policy being tighter for longer. As I just said, I don’t believe that that’s relevant five years out. (…) Second is a higher than expected inflation rate into the distant future. The break-even rates [ie, market pricing of future inflation] suggest that long-run inflation expectations really have not moved much, so this can be left aside as well. Third, markets could be pricing in a credit spread on long Treasuries [suggesting US sovereign bonds carry some default risk]. I do not think this is the case.“ – bto: … oder Investoren erwarten doch Inflation – anders als das die Inflationserwartungen suggerieren.
  • Then there’s the notion that maybe we’re going to have stronger private demand. It could be due to consumers consuming more; I’m sceptical, because I think they are consuming more because they have higher savings, and this will go away. But it’s conceivable that we’re going to be serious about green investment. And that could increase the investment rate by, say, 1 per cent of world GDP. This could do something to the long rate, but I think that, for the time being, it’s a marginal effect.“ – bto: Vor allem, weil die grünen Investitionen eher einen Konsumcharakter haben.
  • The next one is higher potential growth — that a higher r comes with a higher g. Maybe artificial intelligence is going to create an enormous productivity boom. It’s not crazy . . . 1 per cent a year more is not inconceivable. This would explain why long rates have gone up. If this is the case, then the increase in r is not such bad news, as it comes with an increase in g.“ – bto: Somit wären die Schulden wieder “stabil”.
  • Finally, we get to the factor which is probably most relevant, which is what finance people call the term premium. You can think of it in two ways. The first one is in terms of [Treasury bond] flow supply and flow demand. At this stage, there is a lot of supply and for various reasons there is less demand. There is QT [quantitative tightening], which is increasing supply from the Fed. It’s conceivable that that’s part of it. (…) The second one is to think of the term premium as a risk premium. One hypothesis is that we may be worrying more about the variance of inflation. I don’t think that’s it, because in that case we would see the nominal rates go up, but not rates on inflation-indexed bonds. But these rates have gone up as well. So this leaves uncertainty about real rates — with uncertainty about future real rates leading to higher long real rates today. This is not a crazy hypothesis. There are many reasons to think that there’s more uncertainty.“ – bto: Ich denke dabei auch an die geopolitischen Konflikte.
  • Unhedged: What would be the economic consequences if, in the US, debt ratios did explode? How should central bankers respond? Will there be a temptation to monetise the debt? Blanchard: My sense is investors are not yet worried about being repaid if they hold Treasury bonds. (…) A scary alternative scenario is that Donald Trump is elected, that he puts a lackey at the Fed, who monetises some of the debt, and we get high inflation. We know that high unexpected inflation does great things for the debt ratio.“ – bto: Als wären die Schulden nicht schon so auf einem unsustainable path…
  • My sense is it’s going to boil slowly. I don’t know how it ends; not smoothly, is my guess. There is a happier outcome in which somehow the president and Congress get scared early enough to actually be willing to act, taking up entitlements and so on. Let’s hope it happens.“ – bto: Siehe Deutschland: Auch da gibt es keine Hoffnung.

ft.com (Anmeldung erforderlich): „Olivier Blanchard on debt explosions“, 17. November 2020