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美国企业高管展望未来

Robert Hackett 2019年08月12日

近期的潜在放缓迹象也已让人感到不安。

当下一次衰退不可避免地到来时,情况会有多糟?

这是我们在6月中旬的《财富》头脑风暴金融大会间歇期间向首席执行官、投行人士以及科技公司高管提出的一个问题。答案多种多样,有人担心会出现灾难性的崩溃,也有人沉着地认为根本不用担心经济。

就在美国经济谨慎地庆祝自己持续了10年,或者说美国史上最长的增长期之时,越来越多的人开始问,这个繁荣期到什么时候会结束。近期的潜在放缓迹象也已经让投资者感到不安。比如,美国商务部的数据显示,今年第二季度美国GDP增长了2.1%,低于第一季度3.1%的增幅。

几位首席执行官认为全球贸易问题将是造成美国经济最终崩盘的因素之一。西联汇款的首席执行官贺博睿说,唐纳德·特朗普总统治下的贸易冲突体现出了贸易保护主义的政治环境,这“对企业不利”。他指出:“商品的流通可以创造就业,资金的流动也可以创造就业”,鼓励此类流动的政策“一定会挡住衰退的步伐”。

Silicon Valley Bank的首席执行官克雷格·贝克尔的看法和贺博睿相同,他认为贸易问题以及与之相伴的全球增长放缓将成为经济最终下滑的根源。他描述下一次衰退就像是“自残造成的伤口”。

贝克尔说:“这将会是一次感知引发的衰退。”随着担心经济滑坡的人增多,他们将“停止支出”,进而引发他们担心的衰退,这很有讽刺意味。

本次金融大会的参与者显然都想到了衰退的可能性。美国运通的企业发展负责人丽萨·马尔凯塞说:“我们都在谈论衰退。”尽管话题令人愁闷,但马尔凯塞仍然乐观地认为企业和政府已经想出了“如何应付经济下行的主动策略,而不是被动的”那些。

马尔凯塞认为,“经历了2008和2009年”,也就是上一场经济严重衰退,“我们觉得世界变得更聪明了。”人们普遍认为那场危机是大萧条以来最严重的经济滑坡,次级按揭贷款吹出来的房地产泡面破裂加速了它的到来。

高盛的消费银行业务主管哈里特·塔尔瓦也认为,和10年前联邦政府需斥资数千亿美元救助多家银行相比,这次华尔街的准备将更为充分。他说:“我确实觉得银行业有了更多资金,目前所处的位置可能也好于以往。”

IBM区块链项目出售的软件用所谓的分布式账本跟踪食品、资金及其他资产。该项目的总经理玛利·维克强调了新开发的技术可能怎样应对经济滑坡。她说:“我们有了更好的装备,比如AI、区块链和其他机制,它们真的可以帮助我们更快地发现波动性并且真的采取应对措施。”这样的新技术有助于“发现和防范,乃至减轻”对市场的“一些影响”。

但并不是每个人对未来的展望都这么乐观。在线零售商Overstock.com的首席执行官帕特里克·拜恩就很不看好今后的情况。他说:“我觉得情况不妙。坦率讲,我们认为2008年只是餐前的开胃点心。”

拜恩长期以来一直很热心于加密货币,他把自己对经济的展望比作承载了过多汽车的桥梁。拜恩说:“这有点儿像问我,一座桥的设计通行能力是20辆轿车,而现在上面有100辆车开过,它什么时候会断?什么时候会倒塌?那就是真正的答案。”

拜恩还指出:“增长持续了这么长时间让我有点儿吃惊。我觉得深深埋藏在美国经济中的结构性、构架级问题将显现出来。”(财富中文网)

译者:Charlie

审校: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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