AS LOCKDOWNS LIFT across the rich world, people are going out and spending. Australia’s restaurants have been crammed for months. America’s shopping malls are filled with people splurging stimulus cheques. Cinemas in Britain, which were allowed to reopen in mid-May, are packed once again. Yet behind the scenes another, potentially more significant, spending bonanza is just beginning.
随着发达国家纷纷解除封锁，人们开始外出消费。澳大利亚的餐馆过去几个月里熙来攘往。美国的购物中心里挤满了要把领到的经济刺激支票花出去的民众。英国在 5 月中旬获准重开的电影院再次人头济济。不过在幕后，另一场意义可能更为深远的撒钱大潮才刚刚掀起。
Businesses are starting to invest in huge numbers. In America capital spending (or capex) by companies is rising at an annual rate of 15%, both on the hard stuff, such as machines and factories, and intangibles, like software. Firms in other parts of the world are also ramping up spending. Forecasts for business investment have never looked so rosy. Analysts at Morgan Stanley, a bank, predict a“red-hot capex cycle”。Overall global investment, they reckon, will soar to 121% of pre-recession levels by the end of 2022 (see chart 1). Oxford Economics, a consultancy, argues that“the time looks right for a boom in capex”，while IHS Markit, a research firm, forecasts that global real fixed investment will rise by more than 6% this year.
企业开始大手笔投资。美国公司的资本支出正以每年 15% 的速度增加——不论是投向机器和工厂等有形资产还是软件等无形资产。世界其他地区的公司也在扩大支出。对商业投资前景的预测从未如此乐观。摩根士丹利的分析师预测将出现「白热化的资本支出周期」。他们认为，到 2022 年底全球整体投资将飙升至经济衰退前水平的 121%（见图表 1）。咨询机构牛津经济研究院认为，「目前看起来是资本支出激增的恰当时机」。而研究公司埃信华迈（IHS Markit）预测，全球实际固定资产投资今年将增长 6% 以上。
Today’s optimism marks quite a change from the pre-pandemic norm. In America gross domestic business investment, as a share of GDP, had been sluggish since the early 1980 s. After the financial crisis of 2007-09 it took more than two years for global investment, in real terms, to regain its previous peak. By contrast, although investment fell more steeply at the start of the pandemic, it has been quicker to bounce back this time. The prospect of surging capex holds out promise that the global economy will not face a repeat of the 2010 s, when growth in productivity and GDP stayed stubbornly below pre-crisis trends. Investment in new products, technologies and business practices is, after all, the foundation for higher incomes and a better quality of life. So what is behind the capex cheer—and could it last?
当前的乐观情绪相比疫情前常态显现出一种相当大的变化。自上世纪 80 年代初以来，美国国内商业投资占 GDP 的比重持续低迷。2007 到 2009 年金融危机后，全球投资实值用了两年多的时间才重回之前的峰值。相比之下，尽管这次疫情爆发之初投资下挫更猛，但反弹的速度也更快。资本支出激增的前景让人有理由预期全球经济将不会重演 2010 年代的情形——当时生产率和 GDP 的增速始终低于危机前水平。毕竟，对新产品、技术和商业活动的投资是增加收入和提高生活质量的基础。那么，这轮资本支出热潮的驱动力是什么？它能否持续下去？
To understand why analysts are so upbeat, consider the firms included in the S&P 500, America’s main stockmarket index. Together they account for about one dollar in seven of total rich-world corporate capital formation. In a recent report Bank of America analyses these companies’earnings calls since 2006, and concludes that executives are at their most bullish about capex. The Economist has looked at the biggest 25 non-financial firms in the S&P 500 and found that analysts’expectations for capex in 2021 have risen by 10% in the past year.
要理解分析师为何如此乐观，不妨看看美国主要股指标普 500 所包含的公司，它们合计约占到发达国家公司资本形成总额的七分之一。美国银行（Bank of America）最近的一份报告分析了这些公司自 2006 年以来的财报电话会议，得出结论称，眼下公司管理层对资本支出的热情攀升到了最高峰。本刊研究了标普 500 指数中最大的 25 家非金融公司，发现分析师对 2021 年资本支出的预期在过去一年上升了 10%。
For now the investment recovery is concentrated in a few industries. We find that global tech firms are expected to boost capex by 42% this year, relative to 2019. Apple will invest $430 bn in America over a five-year period, an upgrade of 20% on previous plans. Taiwan’s TSMC, the world’s largest semiconductor-maker, recently announced that it would invest $100 bn over the next three years in manufacturing. Analysts reckon that Samsung’s capex will rise by 13% this year, having gone up by 45% in 2020.
目前，投资复苏主要集中在少数几个行业。我们发现，全球科技公司今年的资本支出预计将比 2019 年增加 42%。苹果未来五年将在美国投资 4300 亿美元，比之前的计划加码 20%。全球最大的半导体制造商台积电最近宣布，未来三年将在制造上投资 1000 亿美元。分析师预计，三星的资本支出在 2020 年增长 45% 的基础上，今年将再增加 13%。
Tech companies are spending so freely in part because the pandemic has created new demands. More shopping happens online. Remote work is on the rise. New equipment and software is needed for these to run smoothly. Recent research by Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University and Steven Davis and Yulia Zhestkova of the University of Chicago finds a big rise in the share of patent filings for work-from-home technologies. UBS, another bank, reckons that shipments of computers for commercial use will rise by nearly 10% this year, an acceleration even over the last.
科技公司如此大把撒钱，原因之一是疫情创造了新的需求。更多购物转移到了线上。远程工作正在兴起。这些要流畅运行都需要新的设备和软件。斯坦福大学的尼古拉斯・布鲁姆（Nicholas Bloom）和芝加哥大学的史蒂文・戴维斯（Steven Davis）以及尤利娅・热斯特科瓦（Yulia Zhestkova）最近的研究发现，居家办公技术在专利申请中的占比大幅上升。另一家银行瑞银估计，商用电脑的出货量今年将增长近 10%，增速甚至高于去年。
Tech firms are not the only enthusiastic spenders. Firms in the S&P 500 that focus on discretionary consumer spending boosted capex by 36% year-on-year in the first quarter. Companies such as Target and Walmart, two retailers, are trying to keep up with the online giants that are eating their lunch. Marks & Spencer, an august British retailer, recently announced that it had launched 46 new websites in overseas markets from Iceland to Uzbekistan.
热衷花钱的不只是科技公司。标普 500 指数中的非必需消费品公司第一季度的资本支出同比增加了 36%。零售商塔吉特（Target）和沃尔玛等企业正在努力追赶那些抢夺了自己的市场份额的网络巨头。英国老牌零售商玛莎百货（Marks & Spencer）最近宣布已在从冰岛到乌兹别克斯坦的海外市场上开设了 46 个新网站。
Other retailers are spending frantically to expand capacity, having been caught out by the surge in household spending. Everything from sofas to hot tubs is in short supply. Earlier this year Peloton announced“substantial incremental investments”in expediting the transport of its exercise bikes from Taiwan. Maersk, a shipping firm, recently said it would buy more containers to ease bottlenecks. The global order-book for enormous container ships has risen from 9% of the existing fleet, in October, to over 15% in April.
被家庭支出激增杀了个措手不及的其他零售商正在疯狂投资扩大产能。从沙发到浴缸，一切都供不应求。今年早些时候，Peloton 宣布「实质性的增量投资」以加快从台湾进口健身自行车。航运公司马士基（Maersk）最近表示将购买更多集装箱来缓解瓶颈。全球巨型集装箱船的订单在去年 10 月占现有运力的 9%，到今年 4 月已上升至超过 15%。
The big question is whether the emerging capex boom augurs a broad and lasting shift away from the weakness of the 2010 s, or is simply an enthusiastic but temporary response to reopening. Not everyone is boosting capex: our analysis suggests that about half of the companies in the S&P 500 are not expected to invest more in 2021 than they did in 2019. Global oil-and-gas firms are cutting back by a tenth relative to pre-pandemic levels, possibly in response to lower expected demand for their planet-warming fare. Airline operators are also dialling down spending, perhaps because they expect it to be a while before people can travel freely again. Many executives, including those from raw-materials and industrial-goods firms, continue to preach capital discipline. It may be quite a leap for them to go from a decade of austerity to boom time.
一个关键问题是，正在冒头的这轮资本支出热潮是预示着世界将从之前疲软的十年广泛而长久的转向，还是仅仅是对经济重启热烈却短暂的反应？并非所有公司都在扩大资本支出：我们的分析显示标普 500 指数公司当中约有一半预计 2021 年的投资不会超过 2019 年的水平。全球油气公司的投资较疫情前削减了十分之一，可能是因为预见到它们那些让地球变暖的产品将面临需求减少。航空公司也在削减开支，也许是因为预计人们还需要一段时间才能再次自由出行。原材料和工业品等企业的许多高管仍在大谈投资纪律性。对他们来说，可能很难一下子从紧缩的十年转向繁荣的时代。
Another worry is the trend towards greater consolidation in industries from hotels to mining, which seems unlikely to have been reversed by covid-19. Research by the IMF suggests that companies with market power may be Less keen on investing. In the five years before the pandemic, for instance, American business investment in hotels was barely higher than it was in the five years before the financial crisis, even though demand was far higher.
Set against that, though, economic conditions today could convince reluctant companies to loosen the purse-strings. In contrast to the post-financial-crisis period, households have a lot of savings to spend. A more decisive fiscal and monetary response this time has also allowed firms to load up on cash (see chart 2). Bond issuance by investment-grade-rated American companies jumped to a record $1.7 trn in 2020, up from $1.1 trn in 2019, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence, a research outfit.
但与之不同的是，当前的经济状况可能会说服那些不大情愿的企业也打开钱袋子。与金融危机过后的那段时期相比，现在美国家庭有大量储蓄可供消费。这次更果断的财政和货币政策也让企业积累了大量现金（见图表 2）。研究机构标普全球市场财智（S&P Global Market Intelligence）的数据显示，2020 年美国公司投资级债券发行量创下新高，从 2019 年的 1.1 万亿美元跃升至 1.7 万亿美元。
Moreover, the economic reallocation provoked by covid-19, and its investment implications, will be felt for some time. Managers in certain industries, especially semiconductors, already accept that they went into the pandemic with too little spare capacity, and are promising multi-year projects to make up for it. Perhaps most important, the pandemic is leading to an era of greater technological optimism. The rapid deployment of entirely new business models when covid-19 struck, not to mention vaccine discovery, may have reminded bosses of the payoff to investing. All that might explain why the expectations for capex by S&P 500 firms in 2022 are even more ambitious than those for this year. The investment boom may only be getting started.
此外，疫情引发的经济再分配及其对投资的影响还会再持续一段时间。某些行业的经营者，尤其是半导体行业，已经承认自己在进入疫情年代时备用产能严重不足，并许诺投资多年期的项目来弥补缺口。也许最重要的是，这次疫情开启了一个对技术更加乐观的时代。疫情爆发后，全新的商业模式迅速普及，更不用说疫苗的研发，这些或许都让老板们再度意识到了投资的回报潜力。这一切或许可以解释为何标普 500 指数公司对 2022 年资本支出的预期甚至比今年还要高。投资热潮可能才刚刚开始。