Vom Märchen der einfluss­reichen Noten­banken

Nobelpreisträger Eugene Fama, Professor für Finanzen an der University of Chicago erläutert im Interview mit the market, warum er nicht an die Macht der Notenbanken glaubt. The business of central banks is like pornography: In essence, it’s just entertainment and it doesn’t have any real effects.” Eine Aussage nach meinem Geschmack. Das ganze Interview ist ausgesprochen lesenswert. Meine Highlights aus dem Gespräch:

  • Zunächst zur Börse: „The market seems pretty good. It held up even though the economy is deep in the bucket. This is a good example of how forward looking the market really is: It’s looking past what we are going through now, and it’s saying that the future doesn’t look that bad.“ – bto: Dazu muss man wissen, dass Fama an die effizienten Märkte glaubt. Weil das Nobelpreiskomitee da doch nicht so sicher war, haben sie ihm den Preis gemeinsam mit Robert Shiller verliehen, der genau die gegenteilige Meinung vertritt …
  • „Bubbles are things people see in hindsight. They don’t identify them in advance. Sure, you can look at the behavior of prices, and you may be able to identify cases where they are too high. But if you only look back and say: ‘Oh, stocks went down a lot, so that was a bubble’, then that’s 20/20 hindsight. At the time, there was no evidence that there was a bubble.“ – bto: Greenspan hat auch so argumentiert, davor aber von einer Überbewertung gesprochen.
  • “In my view, there is no such thing as behavioral finance. Essentially, it’s just a criticism of efficient markets. They don’t have a theory of their own. Hence, that makes me the most important person in behavioral finance. Without me, they don’t have anybody to disagree with. So I think behavioral finance is just a branch of efficient markets.” – bto: Ich gebe zu, das ist eine ziemlich selbstbewusste Aussage.
  • “I don’t say markets are completely efficient, but they’re efficient for most questions that I address. Models are never a 100% true. If they were, we would call them reality, not models. But for almost all purposes, market efficiency is a very good approximation. I’ll go even further: Almost all investors should regard markets as efficient for their own investment decisions. If they do that, they will be better off in the long-term.”bto: Das kann allerdings eine ziemlich teure Entscheidung sein.
  • “Negative interest rates tell you that there is some cost to storing cash. That’s why you get negative rates, mostly in short-term bonds. The alternative to holding those bonds is to hold cash, but holding cash is apparently not costless. This means you’re bound by the cost of holding cash. So, what do you do with your cash? If we’re talking about a position of hundreds of millions of dollars you don’t want to have that in cash.“ – bto: Das stimmt. Nur warum sollte man überhaupt so viel Cash halten wollen?
  • „I don’t’ think they impact the real economy, but it’s a problem for the financial system. What’s more, in 2008, in response to the financial crisis, the Fed started to pay interest on its reserves. But there is no interest on the currency, and currency is exchangeable for reserves on demand by the banks. So based on classic monetary theory, you don’t really know what’s determining inflation at this point. There is no control over the stock of what qualifies as money, since reserves aren’t really money anymore because they are paying interest. That means you can’t control the currency supply. In other words: Inflation is totally out of the control of central banks.“ – bto: Aber nachdem ohnehin ein großer Teil des Geldes privat geschaffen wird, ist die Inflation doch so oder so nur sehr indirekt steuerbar.
  • „Inflation and return on investments is a tough topic that’s been around since the early seventies. In principle, you can see the effects of inflation on long-term interest rates, but you can’t see them in stocks very well because the volatility is so high. Hence, we don’t know what effect inflation will have on markets. It depends on the effect on real activity: High, but stable inflation wouldn’t be a big deal. What’s really a big deal is when it gets unstable.“ – bto: Nun, die Inflation der 1970er war kein gutes Umfeld für Aktien. Vor allem Unternehmen mit höherer Verschuldung kamen unter Druck, wie auch jene, die keine große Preissetzungsmacht haben.
  • „Actually, the central banks don’t do anything real. They are issuing one form of debt to buy another form of debt. If you are an old Modigliani–Miller person the way I am, you think that’s a neutral activity: You’re issuing short-term debt to buy long-term debt or vice-versa. That’s not something that should have any real effects. (….) when we look at it systematically, we don’t see a big effect of Fed actions on real activity or on stock prices or on anything else. That’s why I use to say that the business of central banks is like pornography: In essence, it’s just entertainment and it doesn’t have any real effects.“ – bto: Dafür folgen wir ihnen aber sehr aufmerksam, und wenn die Notenbanken etwas zu einem Preis kaufen, der mit dem Marktpreis nicht übereinstimmt, haben wir doch ganz offensichtlich eine Verzerrung!
  • “(…) there has to come a point where people start questioning whether government debt is really riskless. Piling on debt even in good times is a new thing: In the US, we cut taxes and increased the deficit as a consequence, but that happened when the economy was booming. How are we going to pay that back? It has to come out of taxes in the future. As a matter of fact, we didn’t really lower taxes. What we did was we lowered them now and raised them in the future, when we have to pay off that debt. That’s why I worry that investors will become skeptical of whether governments can actually pay off so much debt.”bto: Klingt fast so, als glaubt Fama nicht an MMT.
  • “In the past, it’s always been the case that the largest fifty companies account for more than 50% of the total value of the market. Now, we’ve got a technological revolution, and it turns out that there are five or six big winners, these trillion-dollar companies. They are a pretty large fraction of the market, but they did it through innovation, not through theft or any other illegal behavior. So I don’t know why that’s a negative. These are all new businesses that provide new services we didn’t have before.“ – bto: Die Frage ist natürlich schon, wie es um den Wettbewerb steht und was die Folgen für die Zukunft sind.
  • „This experience we’re going through is totally unusual. If you go back in the past, we experienced the same kind of pandemic in 1918 towards the end of World War I. But at that time, we didn’t take the same measures we’re taking now, shutting down whole economies. So we really don’t know what the response will be if and when there’s a cure for this disease. For instance, what will the response of consumers be at that point? Everybody wants to know if we are going to get a V-shaped response. But nobody knows because you don’t know what people are going to do when this is over.“ – bto: Das stimmt sicherlich!

themarket.ch: “Inflation is Totally Out of the Control of Central Banks”, 10. August 2020