TOKYO — For years, as Japan tried to boost its chronically weak economic growth, it pursued what its central bank saw as a magic formula: stronger inflation and a weaker yen.
东京——多年来,在试图提振其长期疲软的经济增长时,日本一直紧盯着该国央行眼中的神奇公式:通胀走强,日元走弱。
It didn’t quite work as intended. Inflation never met the government’s modest target, despite rock-bottom interest rates and heaps of fiscal stimulus. Workers’ wages stagnated, and growth remained anemic.
但事与愿违。尽管利率处于最低水平并且有大量财政刺激措施,通胀始终未能达到政府的保守目标。工人工资停滞不前,增长依然乏力。
Now, Japan is suddenly getting what it wished for — just not in the way it had hoped.
现在,日本突然得到了梦寐以求的东西——但不是以它想象中的方式。
While overall inflation remains moderate, food and energy costs are rising rapidly, an outgrowth not of increased demand, but of market turmoil related to the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And the yen has hit a two-decade low against the dollar, a dizzying drop of more than 18 percent since September that has unnerved Japanese businesses.
虽然总体通胀仍然温和,但食品和能源成本正在迅速上升,这不是因为需求增加,而是由于与大流行和俄罗斯入侵乌克兰相关的市场动荡。日元兑美元汇率已跌至20年低点,自9月以来跌幅超过18%,令日本企业感到不安。
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The twin forces are posing yet another challenge for the world’s third-largest economy as Japan trails other major nations in emerging from the economic blow of the pandemic. The rise in prices has spooked Japanese consumers used to decades of stability, and the weak yen is starting to look as if it will depress demand at home more than stimulate it abroad.
随着各国都在努力摆脱大流行带来的经济打击,日本在这一方面落后于其他国家,而这两种力量对这个世界第三大经济体构成了又一挑战。日本消费者几十年来习惯了稳定的物价,价格上涨已经吓坏了他们,而疲软的日元看起来似乎会抑制国内需求,而不是刺激国外需求。
“The yen depreciation is attacking the weakest point of the economy,” said Takahide Kiuchi, an economist at the Nomura Research Institute who served on the Bank of Japan’s policy board. Households, he said, “are facing an increase in prices of every imported good,” and “the situation is undermining consumer sentiment even in advance of actual inflation.”
“日元贬值正在冲击经济的最薄弱环节,”曾在日本央行政策委员会任职的野村综合研究所经济学家木内登英表示。他说,家庭“面临着每件进口商品的价格上涨”,“即使在实际通胀之前,这种情况也在削弱消费者信心。”
日元兑美元汇率已跌至两年最低点。
日元兑美元汇率已跌至两年最低点。 Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press
The worries about the depreciating yen reflect a gradual shift in the Japanese economy over the past decade.
对日元贬值的担忧反映了日本经济在过去十年中的逐渐转变。
In a previous era, when Japan was a manufacturing superpower, a weak yen would have been cause for celebration, making Japanese exports cheaper abroad, increasing the value of revenue earned overseas and attracting foreign investment.
在以前的经济时代,当日本是一个制造业超级大国时,日元贬值本来是值得庆祝的,它使日本出口到国外的商品更便宜,增加了海外收入的价值并吸引了外国投资。
But exporting is now less important to the overall Japanese economy, and companies — seeking to avoid trade restrictions and take advantage of cheaper labor costs — have begun to produce more of their products overseas, reducing the impact of exchange rates on their bottom line.
但现在,出口对日本整体经济的重要性已降低,寻求避免贸易限制并利用廉价劳动力成本的公司已开始在海外生产更多产品,从而降低了汇率对其利润的影响。
A Bank of Japan report released in January found that although a weak yen continued to aid the economy, its positive impact on exports had shrunk over the decade leading up to the pandemic. Its contribution to inflation, however, had increased during the same period.
日本央行1月发布的一份报告发现,尽管日元疲软继续对经济有所帮助,但其对出口的积极影响在大流行之前的十年中已经减弱。然而,它对通货膨胀的影响在同一时期有所增加。
The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have most likely amplified the negatives and diminished the positives, said Naohiko Baba, chief Japan economist at Goldman Sachs. Prices have been rising because of manufacturing shutdowns in China and broader logistics chain snarls, as well as the war’s impact on exports of Ukrainian wheat and Russian gas and oil.
高盛首席日本经济学家马场直彦表示,大流行和乌克兰战争很可能放大了负面因素并削弱了正面因素。由于中国制造业停工和更广泛的物流混乱,以及战争对乌克兰小麦和俄罗斯天然气和石油出口的影响,价格一直在上涨。
For resource-poor Japan, which is highly reliant on imported fuel and food, the drop in the yen has driven already high prices even higher, with the costs of some necessities rising by double digit percentages. For the first time in over a decade, consumers are paying more for Asahi beer. And one brand of convenience store chicken had its first price increase in more than 35 years.
对资源匮乏、高度依赖进口燃料和食物的日本来说,日元贬值将本已很高的价格推得更高,一些必需品的成本上涨百分比达到了两位数。消费者面临朝日啤酒十多年来的首次涨价。一个品牌的便利店鸡肉出现了35年来的首次涨价。
十多年来,消费者首次面临朝日啤酒涨价。
十多年来,消费者首次面临朝日啤酒涨价。 Issei Kato/Reuters
“From the perspective of exporters, the weaker yen should be beneficial, but for others, it should be neutral or negative,” Mr. Baba said. He added that the potential upside of the currency devaluation had been further reduced by Japan’s decision to continue barring international tourists, who might be eager to take advantage of favorable exchange rates.
马场表示:“从出口商的角度来看,日元贬值应该是有利的,但对其他人来说,应该是中性或负面的。”他补充说,国际游客可能渴望利用汇率优势,但由于日本决定继续禁止国际游客,进一步降低了货币贬值的潜在益处。
There are a number of reasons for the yen’s weakness. Japan’s economy has faltered during the pandemic, and skyrocketing commodity prices have forced importers to sell more yen for dollars to pay their bills.
日元疲软的原因有很多。日本经济在大流行期间步履维艰,大宗商品价格飙升迫使进口商出售更多日元以换取美元来支付账单。
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But the main cause, experts say, is Japan’s insistence on maintaining interest rates at near zero even as other central banks, led by the Federal Reserve, raise their own drastically.
但专家表示,主要原因是日本坚持将利率维持在接近零的水平,即使以美联储为首的其他央行在大幅提高利率。
The widening spread has triggered a rush to buy dollars as investors look for better returns. And the exodus seems likely to continue.
由于投资者寻求更好的回报,不断扩大的价差引发了购买美元的热潮。外流似乎可能会继续。
Last week, the Fed raised interest rates by half a point, the largest jump in over 20 years, and it has said that it intends to continue raising borrowing costs as it seeks to cool rapid inflation stoked by a booming American job market and rising wages.
上周,美联储将利率提高了半个百分点,这是20多年来的最大涨幅,并表示打算继续提高借贷成本,以期为美国繁荣的就业市场和工资上涨引发的快速通胀降温。
周一,中国连云港一个港口的集装箱。中国的制造业停工和更广泛的物流混乱导致价格上涨。
周一,中国连云港一个港口的集装箱。中国的制造业停工和更广泛的物流混乱导致价格上涨。 Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Wages in Japan, by contrast, have barely budged, and the country’s high employment levels have remained comparatively steady. That means that Japan’s inflation, which over all remains under the government’s target of 2 percent, is most likely driven by supply-side issues caused by the war and the pandemic, not the increased demand that low interest rates are intended to produce.
相比之下,日本的工资几乎没有变化,该国的高就业水平保持相对稳定。这意味着日本的通胀率——总体上仍低于政府2%的目标——很可能是由战争和大流行引起的供给方面问题驱动的,而不是由旨在增加需求而设定的低利率驱动的。
In theory, the Bank of Japan could stanch the yen’s devaluation by raising interest rates. But its governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, whose term ends next April, seems set to stick with his policies until he achieves inflation of both the quality and quantity he envisioned nearly a decade ago when he was nominated by then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
理论上,日本央行可以通过提高利率来遏制日元贬值。但日本银行行长黑田东彦——其任期将于明年4月结束——似乎将坚持他的政策,他需要看到,通胀在规模和质量上都达到近十年前他得到时任首相安倍晋三提名时所设想的水平。
Modest inflation driven by consumer demand, the thinking goes, would create a virtuous cycle of economic expansion: Companies’ profits would grow, spurring investment, wage growth and domestic consumption.
这种想法认为,由消费者需求驱动的适度通胀将创造经济扩张的良性循环:公司利润将增长,刺激投资、工资涨幅和国内消费。
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In late April, Mr. Kuroda doubled down on his commitment to low rates, increasing the Bank of Japan’s purchases of government bonds. The announcement was followed by a yen sell-off.
4月下旬,黑田东彦加大了对低利率的承诺,增加了日本央行购买政府债券的力度。该公告之后发生了日元抛售。
Even if Mr. Kuroda wanted to raise rates, doing so may set off a cascade of economic consequences, said Gene Park, a professor of political science and international relations at Loyola Marymount University who studies Japanese monetary policy.
洛约拉马利蒙特大学研究日本货币政策的政治学和国际关系教授吉恩·朴(音)表示,即使黑田东彦想加息,这样做也可能引发一连串的经济后果。
日本央行行长黑田东彦重申了对低利率的承诺。
日本央行行长黑田东彦重申了对低利率的承诺。 Jiji Press, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Japan has come to rely on big spending to stimulate its economy, Mr. Park said, and raising rates could both make that approach more difficult to continue and make Japan’s national debt, which stands at over 250 percent of its annual economic output, harder to service.
吉恩·朴说,日本已经开始依靠大笔支出来刺激经济,而加息可能会使这种做法更难以继续下去,并使日本的国债——相当于其年度经济产出的250%以上——更难偿还。
While economists disagree about whether that level of debt is sustainable, policymakers are not eager to chance it.
尽管经济学家对这种债务水平是否可持续存在分歧,但政策制定者并不热衷于放手一搏。
“High inflation is politically toxic, and trying to correct for it, the medicine, is also an extremely bitter pill,” Mr. Park said. “If they raise interest rates, that’s also going to be unpopular.”
“高通胀在政治上是有毒的,而试图纠正它的良药,也是一颗极其苦涩的药丸,”吉恩·朴说。“如果他们提高利率,那也将不受欢迎。”
Like Mr. Kuroda, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has brushed off suggestions that the Bank of Japan should seek to strengthen the yen by raising interest rates.
与黑田东彦一样,日本首相岸田文雄没有理会对日本央行应寻求通过提高利率来强化日元的建议。
Instead, he has sought to combat rising prices with more stimulus. This year, Parliament has signed off on several rounds of subsidies to Japanese oil companies that are intended to lower gas prices. In April, lawmakers announced an additional round of subsidies and direct cash payments of about $380 to families with children.
相反,他试图通过更多刺激措施来应对价格上涨。今年,议会已经批准了几轮旨在降低天然气价格的日本石油公司补贴。4月,立法者宣布向有孩子的家庭提供额外一轮补贴和一笔约合380美元的现金。
日本已经开始依靠大笔支出来刺激经济。价格上涨已经吓坏了习惯了几十年来的稳定物价的日本消费者。
日本已经开始依靠大笔支出来刺激经济。价格上涨已经吓坏了习惯了几十年来的稳定物价的日本消费者。 Charly Triballeau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Some politicians have suggested that the Bank of Japan could shore up the yen’s value through currency market interventions, selling its own dollar holdings to lift the Japanese currency. But that’s an expensive proposition that is unlikely to have much effect, said Saori Katada, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California who studies Japan’s trade and monetary policy.
一些政界人士建议,日本央行可以通过货币市场干预来支撑日元的价值,出售自己持有的美元以提振日元。但研究日本贸易和货币政策的南加州大学国际关系教授片田纱织表示,这个代价高昂的提议不太可能产生太大影响。
“These days, the central bank has already given up on intervening in the market,” Ms. Katada said. “The whole market has gotten so big that the actual intervention doesn’t change it. It might change it for a few days, but it won’t change the trend.”
“如今央行已经放弃了市场干预,”片田纱织说。“整个市场变得如此之大,以至于实际干预并没有改变它。它可能会产生几天的改变,但不会改变趋势。”
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With few practical options, the one thing Japan can try to do is “talk the yen up,” she said, with officials making a full-court press to convince markets that they will protect the currency’s value. However, “that requires other partners in the U.S. and Europe to help,” she said, and they are too busy handling their own economies’ problems to devote much thought to Japan.
她说,由于没有什么切实可行的选择,日本可以尝试做的一件事就是“发表日元升值讲话”,即官员们召开正式的新闻发布会,让市场相信他们将保护日元的价值。然而,她说,“这需要美国和欧洲的其他合作伙伴的帮助,”而且他们忙于处理自己的经济问题,没有过多精力考虑日本。
“They don’t care too much about the depreciating yen at the moment,” she said.
“他们目前不太关心日元贬值的问题,”她说。
That means Japan may need to just hang tough until things turn around, said Sayuri Shirai, an economics professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a former member of the Bank of Japan’s board.
东京庆应义塾大学经济学教授、前日本央行董事会成员白井小百合表示,这意味着日本可能需要努力撑住,直到情况好转。
U.S. interest rates will “not expand forever,” she said. “I think we shouldn’t be panicked.”
美国的利率“不会永远扩张下去”,她说,“我认为我们不应该感到恐慌。”