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阴霾来袭:影子银行威胁世界经济稳定

当下的中国市场,影子银行肆意增长引发系统性信用危机,经济增长逐步放缓。古语说:“一事成功,事事成功;反之亦然。” 现在看来,说的好像就是中国的现状。对此,英国央行行长Mark Carney表示:世界经济最大的威胁正是新兴市场中的影子银行。

国际金融监督机构金融稳定理事会(FSB)将影子银行定义为,游离于银行监管体系之外,可能引发系统性风险和监管套利等问题的信用中介体系。据估计,影子银行占全球金融体系总量的25%以上,累计资产额高达71万亿美元,几乎与全球的国内生产总值(GDP)不相上下。奇怪的是,影子银行的业务要比常规的银行业务增速快得多,尤其是在像中国这样的国家。作为“秘密银行业务”的重点地区,去年中国的影子银行业务增长超过40%。

影子银行的起源

影子银行是美国金融管制放松的产物,从上世纪七十年代开始,金融管制放松刺激了平行银行系统的产生,这其中包括证券化的贷款,回购协议以及金融市场互惠基金等等。金融改革和科技也只是加剧了这种情况。

相比之下,中国的影子银行发展过程则有所不同。大规模的信贷紧缩,和不受监管的借贷机构(例如信托公司、券商、小型借贷机构和金融担保公司)难以进入直接借贷领域,才是这一制度产生的真正原因。虽然各国影子银行存在的理由可能不同,但由于低利率限制了存款利率,因此监管套利的适用范围和可能性带来的潜在威胁还是相同的。

基础设施和制造业的巨额投资催生了对基本金属和原油的巨大需求,进而产生了源源不断的融资需求。然而,中国的银行总是以低利率向国有企业提供大量贷款。这种政府指令性的贷款制度对合资企业以及地方政府机构、中小企业和房地产项目来说都是一种信贷市场的缺失。由于缺乏资金,他们试图从非正规的借贷渠道寻求资源,同时将现有储蓄投资别处,以获得远高于银行存款利率的地方,以期弥补这个借贷过程中的利差。

其次,与美国不同的是,中国的影子银行与受监管的银行之间联系紧密,这才是麻烦所在。影子银行与正规银行之间的紧密关系之所以存在,是因为银行可能将资产出售给信托公司。作为表外业务活动的一部分,商业银行通过信托公司、投资工具和理财产品等多种渠道来增加信贷。这些银行不仅在信托公司有控股权,而且还把贷款外包给这些信托公司来进行信用中介加工。信托公司与银行发行的理财产品吸引到的存款所得的收益率远高于传统银行业务。

监管套利

美国的经验表明,在大范围期限错配或者资本短缺却又不得不承担亏损的时候,影子银行业务会造成许多问题。而最麻烦的是那些受影响的正规银行系统。由于存贷款业务存在过多限制,监管套利的危机正在中国大范围上演。

监管机构要求中国的银行不得将贷款业务延伸到投机性行业,比如房地产这类高回报的行业。为了吸收存款,银行也不得不提供更高的利率。对于金融领域的这种介入导致了资金的次最优配制,它是理解中国影子银行业务增长的关键。它鼓励了非银行业参与者(比常规银行监管少)为了更高的回报而进入高风险贷款领域。

抑制影子银行业务的关键在于遏制监管套利,并允许市场来决定信贷成本。显然,中国尚未做好准备。

全球影响

彭博社专栏作家William Pesek曾肯定地说道,相比于2008年的金融危机,中国的崩溃后果可能更为严重。自2008年金融危机以来,中国的广义货币存量增长已经超过12.5万亿美元,这也增加了风险性的私营和国营部门的债务量。而潜在的高债务违约率无疑会进一步破坏中国金融市场的稳定。

 如果这真的发生了,那么中国的银行和金融危机将在全球范围内显现。中国是当今世界第二大经济体,也是主要的商品跨区交易商。就在不久前,中国GDP增速略微下滑就引发大宗商品出口国(如巴西)经济放缓。

严重的中国经济危机可能让房地产和建筑行业遭受重击,因为其与国内外众多行业有着广泛的前后向联系,特别是东盟、澳大利亚、韩国、日本和台湾地区。与此同时危机也会重创全球交易商品的价格,从煤、铜、铁矿石到原油、天然气都将受到影响。

印度之鉴

从本质上来说,印度的常规银行和影子银行也是互相联系的。与中国相比,印度虽然有着更加强大的金融结构,但还远远不够完善。此外,印度存在相当程度的金融压制。不同的监管权限可能会加重风险,比如从影子银行领域产生的“流动性和杠杆率”问题。复杂的结构化的金融工具可能增加系统性风险。

监管这些实体需要,使之成为过度监管的最均衡方法可能会扼制经济增长和创新,但监管不足则会导致系统性风险向其他经济部门外溢。在这种环境下,监管个体自身的合宜措施敏捷度,以及监管各方之间的协调合作,比简单地提出新规则和监控措施重要得多。

 

An old adage goes, “Nothing succeeds like success and nothing fails like excess.” This is quite relevant in the context of China – now facing slowing growth as well as the dangers of the systemic credit risks emanating from the unregulated and unbridled growth of its shadow banking sector. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, says the greatest danger to the world economy is shadow banking in emerging markets.

The international watchdog, Financial Stability Board (FSB) defines shadow banking as the activities and processes of credit intermediation outside the purview of the formal banking system. It is estimated to account for more than 25 percent of the global financial system with assets of $71 trillion, almost the size of world GDP. Strangely, shadow banking operations are growing more rapidly than formal banking operations are. This is especially so in countries like China. China, the epicenter of “covert banking operations,” last year saw growth of more than 40 percent in its shadow banking operations.

Genesis of Shadow Banking

The emergence of shadow banking in the U.S. was a product of financial deregulation that began in the seventies, and which encouraged a parallel banking system comprising securitized loans, repurchase agreements, and moneymarket mutual funds activity. Financial innovation and technology only exacerbated the situation.

In contrast, shadow banking in China has emerged as an offshoot of an enormous credit crunch and a system of directed lending that denies access to unregulated lenders such as trust companies, brokerage firms, small lenders, and financial guarantors. The raison d’être may differ but the common thread behind the existence of shadow banking, whether in China or any country, is the scope and possibility of regulatory arbitrage, since lower interest rates put a cap on deposit rates.

Huge investment in the infrastructure and manufacturing sector generated a great appetite for commodities such as base metals and crude oil, and in turn an insatiable need for finance. However, banks in China supply credit largely to state owned enterprises at low administered interest rates. This system of directed credit led to a missing market for credit for ventures and projects by local government agencies, small and medium enterprises (SME), and real estate players.Short of funds, they sought recourse from the informal lending route while savings looked for returns higher than the abysmally low bank deposit rates, filling the gap.

Second, in contrast to the U.S. situation, shadow banking in China has a strong interface with the regulated banking industry and that can be problematic. This strong relationship between shadow banking and its formal counterpart exists since banks could sell assets to trust companies. As part of their off-balance sheet activities, commercial banks augment credit by channelizing it via trust companies, investment vehicles, and wealth management products. These banks not only have controlling shares in trust companies but also carry out a credit intermediation process by outsourcing loans to them. These trust companies along with banks issue wealth management products that attract savings desperately searching for higher yields than those the traditional banking can offer.

Regulatory Arbitrage

The U.S. experience shows that shadow banking operations cause problems in the presence of either large maturity mismatches or capital shortages to absorb losses. The most troublesome were those which infected the formal banking system. The danger with China is that regulatory arbitrage is happening at an alarmingly high rate because of excessive restrictions on deposit and lending operations.

Banks in China have been asked not to extend loans to speculative sectors like real estate that are believed to give better returns to investors. Banks have also been obliged to offer higher rates to attract deposits. This intervention in the financial sector, which leads to a suboptimal allocation of funds, is the key to understanding the growth of shadow banking operations in China. It encourages the entry of non-banking players (less regulated than formal banking) to take positions in risky loans for better returns.

The solution to checking shadow banking operations lies in plugging the regulatory arbitrage and allowing the cost of credit to be decided by market forces. China has not been prepared to do this.

Global Implications

William Pesek, the Bloomberg View columnist, has rightly said that a China crash could make the 2008 crisis look like a garden party. China has added more than $12.5 trillion to its broad monetary stock since the 2008 financial crisis, and this has added to the stock of risky private and public sector debt. Many of these debtors are likely to default, potentially wreaking havoc to China’s financial stability.

Should it actually take place, a banking and financial crisis in China would be felt worldwide. China is the world’s second largest economy and the leading trader of merchandise across regions. Just the recent slight fall in Chinese GDP growth has triggered a slowdown in commodities exporters like Brazil.

A serious Chinese economic crisis could deal an immense blow to the real estate and construction sector, given their extensive backward and forward linkages with other industries and sectors both domestic and international, especially in ASEAN, Australia, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Also hard hit would be prices of globally traded commodities, from coal, copper, and iron ore to oil and gas.

Lessons for India

In India too, the formal and shadow banking are intrinsically interlinked. Compared to China, India has a stronger financial structure, but it is far from perfect. Moreover, there is considerable financial repression in India. Different regulatory purviews can exacerbate risks like “liquidity and leverage” emanating from the shadow banking space. Sophisticated structured financial instruments can add to the systemic risk.

An optimally balanced approach to regulate these entities needs to evolve as over regulation can kill economic growth and innovation, while under regulation can cause a spillover of systemic risks to other sectors of the economy. In this environment, deftness and market intelligence on the part of the regulator, and coordination in the case of multiple regulators, is more important than simply coming up with new regulations and monitoring adherence.


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