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美國企業高管展望未來

Robert Hackett 2019年08月12日

近期的潛在放緩跡象也已讓人感到不安。

當下一次衰退不可避免地到來時,情況會有多糟?

這是我們在6月中旬的《財富》頭腦風暴金融大會間歇期間向首席執行官、投行人士以及科技公司高管提出的一個問題。答案多種多樣,有人擔心會出現災難性的崩潰,也有人沉著地認為根本不用擔心經濟。

就在美國經濟謹慎地慶祝自己持續了10年,或者說美國史上最長的增長期之時,越來越多的人開始問,這個繁榮期到什么時候會結束。近期的潛在放緩跡象也已經讓投資者感到不安。比如,美國商務部的數據顯示,今年第二季度美國GDP增長了2.1%,低于第一季度3.1%的增幅。

幾位首席執行官認為全球貿易問題將是造成美國經濟最終崩盤的因素之一。西聯匯款的首席執行官賀博睿說,唐納德·特朗普總統治下的貿易沖突體現出了貿易保護主義的政治環境,這“對企業不利”。他指出:“商品的流通可以創造就業,資金的流動也可以創造就業”,鼓勵此類流動的政策“一定會擋住衰退的步伐”。

Silicon Valley Bank的首席執行官克雷格·貝克爾的看法和賀博睿相同,他認為貿易問題以及與之相伴的全球增長放緩將成為經濟最終下滑的根源。他描述下一次衰退就像是“自殘造成的傷口”。

貝克爾說:“這將會是一次感知引發的衰退。”隨著擔心經濟滑坡的人增多,他們將“停止支出”,進而引發他們擔心的衰退,這很有諷刺意味。

本次金融大會的參與者顯然都想到了衰退的可能性。美國運通的企業發展負責人麗薩·馬爾凱塞說:“我們都在談論衰退。”盡管話題令人愁悶,但馬爾凱塞仍然樂觀地認為企業和政府已經想出了“如何應付經濟下行的主動策略,而不是被動的”那些。

馬爾凱塞認為,“經歷了2008和2009年”,也就是上一場經濟嚴重衰退,“我們覺得世界變得更聰明了。”人們普遍認為那場危機是大蕭條以來最嚴重的經濟滑坡,次級按揭貸款吹出來的房地產泡面破裂加速了它的到來。

高盛的消費銀行業務主管哈里特·塔爾瓦也認為,和10年前聯邦政府需斥資數千億美元救助多家銀行相比,這次華爾街的準備將更為充分。他說:“我確實覺得銀行業有了更多資金,目前所處的位置可能也好于以往。”

IBM區塊鏈項目出售的軟件用所謂的分布式賬本跟蹤食品、資金及其他資產。該項目的總經理瑪利·維克強調了新開發的技術可能怎樣應對經濟滑坡。她說:“我們有了更好的裝備,比如AI、區塊鏈和其他機制,它們真的可以幫助我們更快地發現波動性并且真的采取應對措施。”這樣的新技術有助于“發現和防范,乃至減輕”對市場的“一些影響”。

但并不是每個人對未來的展望都這么樂觀。在線零售商Overstock.com的首席執行官帕特里克·拜恩就很不看好今后的情況。他說:“我覺得情況不妙。坦率講,我們認為2008年只是餐前的開胃點心。”

拜恩長期以來一直很熱心于加密貨幣,他把自己對經濟的展望比作承載了過多汽車的橋梁。拜恩說:“這有點兒像問我,一座橋的設計通行能力是20輛轎車,而現在上面有100輛車開過,它什么時候會斷?什么時候會倒塌?那就是真正的答案。”

拜恩還指出:“增長持續了這么長時間讓我有點兒吃驚。我覺得深深埋藏在美國經濟中的結構性、構架級問題將顯現出來。”(財富中文網)

譯者:Charlie

審校:夏林

When the next recession inevitably strikes, how bad will it be?

That was one of the questions we posed to CEOs, bankers, and tech executives on the sidelines of Fortune’s Brainstorm Finance conference in Montauk, N.Y., in mid-June. The query provoked responses ranging from fears of a cataclysmic collapse to calm dismissal of any economic angst.

As the U.S. economy cautiously cheers on 10 years of growth, the longest period of expansion in American history, people are increasingly asking when the boom-times will come to an end. Recent signs of a potential slowdown—the national output of goods and services grew 2.1% last quarter, down from 3.1% in the first quarter, according to the Commerce Department—has also raised investors’ unease.

Several CEOs cited global trade issues as a factor contributing to a possible, eventual meltdown. Hikmet Ersek, CEO of Western Union, said that the protectionist political environment, as manifested in trade conflicts under President Donald Trump, is “bad for business.” He noted that “when goods move jobs are created, and when money moves jobs are created,” and he said that policies encouraging such mobility “will definitely hinder recession.”

Greg Becker, CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, echoed Ersek in pinpointing trade issues and a concomitant slowdown in global growth as root causes of an eventual downturn. He described the next recession as likely to be “a self-inflicted wound.”

“It’ll be a perception-created recession,” Becker said. As more people fear an economic pullback, they will “pause spending” and thus, ironically, create the recession they feared, he said.

The possibility of a recession was clearly on people’s minds at Fortune’s financial summit. “We’re all talking about it,” said Lisa Marchese, head of corporate development at American Express. Despite the glum chatter, Marchese remained optimistic that companies and governments have been thinking through “proactive strategies for how to manage in a downturn, as opposed to reactive” ones.

“I think we’re a smarter world for having been through 2008, 2009,” when the last major economic downturn struck, Marchese said. That crisis, generally regarded as the worst economic slump since the Great Depression, precipitated when a housing bubble fueled by subprime mortgages went bust.

Harit Talwar, head of consumer banking at Goldman Sachs, agreed that Wall Street will be better prepared this time around versus a decade ago when many banks needed bailing out to the tune of hundreds of billions of federal dollars. “I do think that the banking industry has more capital—is more well-positioned—today than, perhaps, it has been earlier,” he said.

Marie Wieck, general manager of IBM’s blockchain program, which sells software that tracks food, money, and other assets on so-called distributed ledgers, emphasized how newly developed technologies could counter a downturn. “We are better equipped with A.I. and blockchain and other mechanisms that can actually help us detect volatility more quickly and actually react to it,” she said. Such new technologies can help “detect and prevent—dampen—some of the impacts” on the market, she said.

But not everyone’s vision of the future was so rosy. Patrick Byrne, CEO of online retailer Overstock.com, sounded an ominous note for the years ahead. “I think it will be bad,” he said. “To be honest, I think that ’08 was the hors d’oeuvres course.”

Bryne, a longtime cryptocurrency enthusiast, compared what he expects will happen to the economy to what might happen to a bridge overloaded with too many vehicles. “It’s a little bit like asking me there’s a bridge that was designed to hold 20 cars passing over it at a time and there’s now 100 going over it,” Byrne said. “When’s it going to break? When’s it going to collapse? That’s really your answer.”

“I’m kind of shocked it’s gone on this long,” Byrne continued. “I think that we have deep, deep, structural, architectonic level problems in our economy that will surface.”

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