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 今日主題:World economy-- Past and future tense  世界經濟--過去和未來時

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 中英文稿:
World economy-- Past and future tense
世界經濟--過去和未來時

The world economy in 2015 will carry troubling echoes of the late 1990s
世界經濟在2015年將出現20世紀90年代晚期令人煩惱的相似困境

A FINANCIAL crash in Russia; falling oil prices and a strong dollar; a new gold rush in Silicon Valley and a resurgent American economy; weakness in Germany and Japan; tumbling currencies in emerging markets from Brazil to Indonesia; an embattled Democrat in the White House. Is that a forecast of the world in 2015 or a portrait of the late 1990s?
俄羅斯發生了金融危機;油價和強勢美元下跌;矽谷出現了新的淘金熱,並且美國實現經濟復蘇;德國和日本則經濟疲軟;從巴西到印尼的新興市場貨幣呈動盪;民主黨在白宮四面楚歌。那是對2015年世界的預測或上世紀90年代末的景象描繪?

Recent economic history has been so dominated by the credit crunch of 2008-09 that it is easy to forget what happened in the decades before. But looking back 15 years or so is instructive—in terms of both what to do and what to avoid.
近期的經濟已經由2008-09年的信貸緊縮所主導,很容易忘記在十年前所發生的事情。但回過頭來看15年前的經濟會發現有所啟發—反觀兩者可以知道該做之事以及應避免什麼問題。

Then, as now, the United States was in the vanguard of a disruptive digital revolution. The advent of the internet spawned a burst of innovation and euphoria about America's prospects. By 1999 GDP was rising by more than 4% a year, almost twice the rich-country average. Unemployment fell to 4%, a 30-year low. Foreign investors piled in, boosting both the dollar and share prices. The S&P 500 index rose to almost 30 times earnings; tech stocks went wild.
當時和現在一樣,美國當年是顛覆性的數字革命的先鋒。互聯網的出現催生了一陣對美國的前景創新和興高采烈的樂觀情緒。到1999年為止,美國國內生產總值 每年增長率超過4%,幾乎兩倍于富裕國家的平均水準。美國失業率下降至4%,為30年最低點。外國投資者主要集中于提升美元和股票價格。標準普爾500指 數升至市盈率的近30倍;科技股瘋狂飆升。

The optimism in America stood in stark contrast to gloom elsewhere, as it does today. Japan's economy had slipped into deflation in 1997. Germany was “the sick man of Europe”, its firms held back by rigid labour markets and other high costs. Emerging markets, having soared ahead, were in crisis: between 1997 and 1999 countries from Thailand to Brazil saw their currencies crash as foreign capital fled and dollar-denominated debts proved unpayable.
正如現今一樣,在美國的樂觀情緒和其他地方的悲觀狀態形成鮮明對比。日本經濟已經在1997年陷入通貨緊縮。德國是那時的“歐洲病夫”,德國公司由勞動力 市場僵化以及其他高成本阻礙了經濟。已經提前高速發展的新興市場也陷入危機:1997年至1999年之間,從泰國到巴西等國家貨幣出現崩潰,並伴隨著外資 外泄,而且以美元計價的債務被證明是無法償還的。

Eventually, America ran into trouble too. The tech-stock bubble burst in early 2000, prompting a broader share price slump. Business investment, particularly in technology, sank; and as share prices fell, consumers cut back. By early 2001 America, along with most of the rich world, had slipped into recession, albeit a mild one.
最終,美國也遇到了麻煩。早在2000年科技股泡沫破滅,促使更廣泛的股價暴跌。商業投資,尤其是在技術方面的投資也在下降;而且隨著股票價格下跌,消費者也在減少。到2001年初,美國與大多數發達國家一樣,已經陷入經濟衰退,儘管是溫和的下降。

America the powerful
壯哉美國

Inevitably the parallels are not perfect. The biggest difference is China, a bit-part player in 1999 and now the world's second-biggest economy, contributing disproportionately to global growth. But there are three trends at work that destabilised the world economy then and could do the same now.
不可避免的相似之處並不全然完美。最大的區別就是中國,一個在1999年經濟中扮演跑龍套的配角的中國,目前已經是世界上第二大經濟體,對全球經濟增長作出巨大貢獻。但也有使得當時世界經濟不穩定三個趨勢,也會對現在經濟產生影響。

The first is the gap between America, where growth is accelerating, and almost everywhere else, where it is slowing. In the late 1990s Larry Summers, then the US deputy treasury secretary, warned that the world economy was “flying on one engine”. For 2015 The Economist's panel of forecasters expects 3% growth in America, compared with 1.1% in Japan and the euro area. China's growth rate may fall to around 7%.
第一個趨勢是美國,經濟增長加快,而幾乎其他任何地方經濟正出現放緩。在20世紀90年代後期美國財政部副部長拉裡•薩默斯警告說,世界經濟是“依靠單台 引擎在飛馳”。《經濟學家》預測專家對於2015年進行預測:美國經濟增長3%,在日本和歐元區為1.1%。中國的經濟增長速度可能回落至7%左右。

Americans can comfort themselves that, as in the late 1990s, the optimism gap is partially warranted. Jobs are being created in their country faster than at any time since 1999, cheap petrol has buoyed consumer spending and business investment has picked up. But the news is not all good: cheaper oil could tip plenty of America's shale producers into bankruptcy in 2015, while a stronger dollar and weakness abroad will hurt exporters—just as they did 15 years ago. Britain, the other Anglosphere champion, may also be clobbered by the euro zone's woes.
美國人可以安慰自己的是,在上世紀90年代後期,樂觀缺口部分得到了填補和保障。1999年以來美國創造了比以往任何時候都要快的就業率,價格便宜的汽油 提升了消費者支出,並且商業投資回升。但並非全是喜訊:便宜的油可能會使得許多美國的葉岩生產商在2015年破產,當美元走強和外幣出現疲軟時會傷害出口 商—和他們15年前如出一轍。英國,其他盎格魯勢力範圍的捍衛者,也可能被歐元區的危機重挫。

The second worrying parallel with the late 1990s is the dismal outlook for the rich world's two other big economies. Germany's growth rate has tumbled to around 1% and there is a deeper malaise caused by years of underinvestment, a disastrous energy policy and a government that is too obsessed by its fiscal targets to spend money and too frightened of its voters to push through the sort of structural reforms that Gerhard Schröder implemented in 2003. Meanwhile Japan has repeated the error it made in 1997—thwarting its escape from stagnation with a premature rise in consumption tax.
上世紀90年代末的第二個令人擔憂的是世界上其他兩大經濟體慘澹前景。德國的增長率已經下降到1%左右,多年投資不足導致更深的萎靡現象,災難性的能源政 策和政府過於迷戀其財政目標來花費金錢,太害怕選民對推動政府進行如格哈德•施羅德於2003年實施的結構性改革,同時日本已經出現了1997年所犯的錯 誤—挫敗了其逃離經濟停滯與過早增加消費稅。

The third echo of the 1990s is the danger in emerging markets. Back then the problem was fixed exchange rates and hefty foreign debt. Now the debts are lower, the exchange rates float and most governments have built up reserves. Still, there are growing signs of trouble, especially in Russia (see article). But other commodity exporters also look vulnerable, especially in Africa. Oil accounts for 95% of Nigeria's exports and 75% of its government revenue. Ghana has already gone to the IMF for support. In other countries the danger lies in the corporate sector. Many Brazilian firms are heavily indebted in dollars. A rash of corporate defaults may prove less spectacular than Asia's sovereign-debt crises in the 1990s, but they will make investors nervous and push up the dollar.
上世紀90年代的第三波回音是新興市場的危險。當時的問題是固定匯率和巨額外債。現在,債務較低,匯率浮動,大多數國家的政府都建立了儲備。不過,也有麻 煩越來越多的跡象,尤其是在俄羅斯(見文章)。但其他大宗商品出口國也很脆弱,尤其是在非洲。石油占95%,奈及利亞的出口和政府財政收入的75%。迦納 已經申請國際貨幣經濟組織的支援。在其他國家的危險存在於企業部門。許多巴西公司都對美元負債累累。一連串企業違約可能比亞洲的主權債務危機在20世紀 90年代不那麼引人注目,但他們會讓投資者緊張,推升美元。

Fear the hangover
心有餘悸

Add all this up and 2015 seems likely to be bumpy. Bears will bet that a surging dollar coupled with euro-zone torpor and a few emerging-market crises will eventually prompt a downturn in America. On the plus side, stock markets do not look as frothy as they did in the 1990s: the price/earnings ratio of the S&P 500 is 18, not far above its historical average. Although many big tech firms are investing recklessly, most have decent balance-sheets. And the global financial system is less leveraged and hence less vulnerable to contagion. In 1998 Russia's default felled LTCM, a big American hedge fund. Such knock-on effects are less likely today.
把所有這一切添加起來思考可以想見2015年很可能是崎嶇不平的。大咖們會打賭,一個美元升值加上歐元區遲鈍和一些新興市場的危機最終會促使美國進入經濟 低迷時期。從有利的一面看,股市不會像他們在上世紀90年代那樣看起來像泡沫:在標準普爾500指數的價格收益比是18,而不是遠高於歷史平均水準。儘管 許多大型科技公司正在投資硬拼,最有體面的資產負債表。與全球金融體系的杠杆率較低,因此不容易受到傳染。 1998年,俄羅斯對美國長期資本管理公司(LTCM)發生了債務違約,這是一家大型美國對沖基金,結果致使該公司垮臺。這樣連鎖反應是不太可能出現在今天。

But if the world economy does stumble, restoring stability will be harder this time round because policymakers have so little room for manoeuvre. Back in 1999 the Federal Reserve's policy rate was around 5%, leaving plenty of scope for cutting when the economy slowed. Nowadays interest rates all over the rich world are close to zero.
但是,如果世界經濟不摔跟頭,恢復穩定將在這一次變得更為困難,因為政策制定者有那麼一點迴旋的餘地。早在1999年,美聯儲的政策利率是5%左右,經濟放緩時留出足夠的餘地去削減利率。現在的利率都在富裕國家接近於零。

The political scene is also different, and not in a good way. At the end of the 1990s most people in the rich world had enjoyed the fruits of the boom: median American wages rose by 7.7% in real terms in 1995-2000. Since 2007, by contrast, they have been flat in America, and have fallen in Britain and much of the euro zone. All over the rich world voters are already grumpy with their governments, as polling numbers and their willingness to vote for protest parties show. If they are squeezed next year discontent will turn to anger. The economics of 2015 may look similar to the late 1990s, but the politics will probably be rather worse.
政壇出現了不利的變化。在20世紀90年代,大多數人在富裕世界的盡頭盡享繁榮的成果:美國中產階級工資在1995-2000年實際上漲了7.7%。自 2007年以來,相比之下,美國工資增長持平,英國和大部分歐元區工資甚至出現下降。各地富國選民已經對他們的政府持不滿態度,正如民意測驗記錄以及他們 願意把票投給抗議黨即可看出。如果他們被打壓,明年的不滿會變成憤怒。 2015年的經濟可能類似於20世紀90年代末,但政治形勢可能會相當糟糕。

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