Je od finančnega sektorja sploh kakšna korist?

Ob začetku krize leta 2008 je glavni menedžer Goldman Sachsa Lloyd Blankfein v svoj bran izjavil, da “finančni sektor opravlja delo Boga“. To seveda ni res, toda ni daleč od dejstva, da finančni sektor res igra vlogo boga, obnaša se kot vladar sveta. Usoda družin, podjetij in držav je odvisna od tega ali jih finančni sektor ustrezno podpira ali ne. In davkoplačevalci ječijo, ko se finančni sektor v svojih špekulacijah breizhodno zapleza in mora posredovati država, da ga iz davkov davkoplačevalcev sanira in dokapitalizira. Toda je to res vredno, si finančni sektor res zasluži to vlogo?

To vprašanje si je nedavno zastavila Lynn Stout, profesorica na pravi fakulteti univerze Cornell, v komentarju za – ne boste verjeli – blog ProMarket, ki ga ureja zloglasna čikaška poslovna šola (Chicago Booth School of Business). Stoutova secira ključne funkcije finančnega sektorja in analizira, koliko so res relevantne v sodobnem svetu ter ali si ameriški Wall Street dejansko zasluži letno plačo v višini 500 milijard dolarjev za opravljeno delo.

Finančni sektor naj bi opravljal dve ključni funkciji: (1) posredoval prihranke varčevalcem tistim, ki ga najbolj učinkovito investirajo, in (2) zagotavljal likvidnost na trgu. Prva funkcija je bila včasih vloga bank, da so zbirale depozite in jih v obliki kreditov posredovale naprej. Toda banke že nekaj desetletij tega ne počnejo več, pač pa denar ustvarjajo iz nič in naknadno na drug strani bilance kot vir zabeležijo fiktivni depozit. Finančni sektor naj bi zagotavljal sveži kapital podjetjem, česar pri nas ne počne. Toda tudi v ZDA kot najbolj razvitem kapitalskem trgu je tega bolj za vzorec, saj finančni sektor beleži le 10% dobička iz naslova zbiranja svežega kapitala podjetjem. Preostalih 90% dobička pride od trgovanja na sekundarnem trgu – torej od premetavanja delnic in obveznic, ki pa je igra z ničelno vsoto (kar eni dobijo, drugi izgubijo). Druga funkcija – zagotavljanje likvidnosti (omogočanje, da lastniki delnic in obveznic hitro prodajo svoje premoženje) – je prav tako vprašljiva, saj je večina prihrankov dolgoročne narave (vzajemni in pokojninski skladi). Ta funkcija zagotavljanja likvidnosti je torej pomembna predvsem za špekulante na finančnem trgu, ki s kratkoročnimi transakcijami iščejo dobičke.

Finančni sektor naj bi sicer opravljal še tretjo funkcijo – zagotavljanja informacij o pravih cenovnih trendih, na podlagi katerih bi se na to poslovni subjekti bolj učinkovito odločali o bodočih naložbah. Toda finančni sektor te informacije najbolj natančno poda, ko pride do transakcije (prej pa je ogromno šuma), takrat pa je ta informacija že zdavnaj prepozna.

Stoutova tako pride do ugotovitve, da finančniki – za razliko od zdravnikov medicinskih sester, gasilcev, pilotov, učiteljev itd. – ne opravljajo nobene posebej koristne funkcije za družbo, pač pa služijo le sami sebi. Izmišljujejo si nove in nove produkte, da lahko napihujejo svoje dobičke in svoje bajne plače.

S Stoutovo se je težko ne strinjati. Vse največje krize v zadnjih 300 letih je povzročil finančni sektor s svojimi špekulacijami. In finančne krize so najhujše, so najgloblje in najdaljše in s tem povročijo daleč največ škode. Brez velikega tveganja lahko rečem, da ne bi bilo nobene posebne škode, če bi se zbudili nekega jutra v svet brez kapitalskih trgov. Kam bi vlagali svoje prihranke pokojninski skladi? V nacionalne državne obveznice (najbolj varna oblika). Kje bi se financirale države? Pri poslovnih bankah.

Let’s start with the notion that Wall Street helps companies raise capital. If we look at the numbers, it’s obvious that raising capital for companies is only a sideline for most banks, and a minor one at that. Corporations raise capital in the so-called “primary” markets where they sell newly-issued stocks and bonds to investors. However, the vast majority of bankers’ time and effort is devoted to (and most bank profits come from) dealing, trading, and advising investors in the so-called “secondary” market where investors buy and sell existing securities with each other. In 2009, for example, less than 10 percent of the securities industry’s profits came from underwriting new stocks and bonds; the majority came instead from trading commissions and trading profits (Table 1219). This figure reflects the imbalance between the primary issuing market (which is relatively small) and the secondary trading market (which is enormous). In 2010, corporations issued only $131 billion in new stock (Table 1202). That same year, the World Bank reports, more than $15 trillion in stocks were traded in the U.S. secondary marketmore than the nation’s GDP. Yet secondary market trading is fundamentally a zero sum game—if I make money by buying low and selling high, it’s money you lost by buying high and selling low.

So, what benefit does society get from all this secondary market trading, besides very rich and self-satisfied bankers like Blankfein? The bankers would tell you that we get “liquidity”–the ability for investors to sell their investments relatively quickly. The problem with this line of argument is that Wall Street is providing far more liquidity (at a hefty price—remember that half-trillion-dollar payroll) than investors really need. Most of the money invested in stocks, bonds, and other securities comes from individuals who are saving for retirement, either by investing directly or through pension and mutual funds. These long-term investors don’t really need much liquidity, and they certainly don’t need a market where 165 percent of shares are bought and sold every year. They could get by with much less trading—and in fact, they did get by, quite happily. In 1976, when the transactions costs associated with buying and selling securities were much higher, fewer than 20 percent of equity shares changed hands every year. Yet no one was complaining in 1976 about any supposed lack of liquidity. Today we have nearly 10 times more trading, without any apparent benefit for anyone (other than Wall Street bankers and traders) from all that “liquidity.”

Finally, let’s turn to the claim that Wall Street trading helps allocate society’s resources more efficiently by ensuring securities are priced accurately. This argument is based on the notion of “price discovery”–the idea that the promise of speculative profits motivates traders to do research that uncovers socially useful information. The classic example is a wheat futures trader who researches weather patterns. If the trader accurately predicts a drought, the trader buys wheat futures, driving up wheat prices, causing farmers to plant more wheat, helping alleviate the effects of the drought. Thus (the argument goes) the trader’s profits from speculating in wheat futures are just compensation for providing socially valuable “price discovery.” Once again, however, this cheerful banker “just-so story” turns out to be unsupported by any significant evidence. Let’s start with the questionable premise that the average trader earns profits from doing good research. The well-established fact that very few actively-managed mutual funds routinely outperform the market undermines the claim that most trading is driven by truly superior information.

But even more significantly, the fact that a trader with superior information can move prices in the “correct” direction does not necessarily mean that society will benefit. It’s all a question of timing.  As famous economist Jack Hirshleifer pointed out many years ago, trading that makes prices more accurate when it’s too late to do anything about it is privately profitable but not socially beneficial. Most Wall Street trading in stocks, bonds, and derivatives moves information into prices only days–sometimes only microseconds–before it would arrive anyway. No real resources are reallocated in such a short time span.

So, what does Wall Street do that benefits society? Doctors and nurses make patients healthier.  Firefighters and EMTs save lives. Telecommunications companies and smart phone manufacturers permit people to communicate with each other at a distance. Automobile executives and airline pilots help people close that distance. Teachers and professors help students learn. Wall Street bankers help—mostly just themselves.

Vir: Lynn Stout, ProMarket

One response

  1. Imam eno vprašanje, ki se sicer ne nanaša čisto neposredno na to temo, pa vendar. Pred dobrima dvema tednoma sem gledal oddajo LastWeekTonight with John Oliver, kjer so izpostavili nov možen “mehurček” v ameriškem gospodarstvu. Opisali so način financiranja odobravanja potrošniških kreditov za nakup rabljenih avtomobilov v ZDA. Pereč naj bi bil predvsem problem, da se (tako kot pred letom 2008 za nepremičnine) podeljuje avtomobilske kredite vsem, ki si ga zaželijo. Merijo predvsem na revnejše prebivalce, ovira jim ni niti, če je oseba v osebnem stečaju. Takšni krediti imajo tudi zelo visoke obresti, veliko kreditojemalcev pa kmalu postane nezmožnih plačevati obroke. Tako jim zasežejo avtomobil, ki ga na podoben način zopet naprej prodajo, bankrotiranim kreditojemalcem pa zaračunajo še dodatne kazni/penale. Ali kaj poznate to zgodbo, kako pereča je in ali se podobno dohaja tudi v EU/SLO?

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