A theory of money needs a proper place for financial intermediaries. Intermediaries create money by taking deposits from savers and investing them in productive projects. The money multiplier depends on the size of intermediary balance sheets, and their ability to take risks. In downturns, as lending contracts and the money multiplier shrinks, the value of money rises. This leads to a Fisher deflation that hurts borrowers and amplifies shocks. An accommodative monetary policy in downturns, focused on the assets held by constrained agents, can mitigate these destabilizing adverse feedback effects. We devote particular attention to interest rate cuts, and study the potential for such policies to create moral hazard.
The financial crises of the last twenty years brought new economic concepts into classrooms discussions. This article introduces undergraduate students and teachers to seven of these models: (i) misallocation of capital inflows, (ii) modern and shadow banks, (iii) strategic complementarities and amplification, (iv) debt contracts and the distinction between solvency and liquidity, (v) the diabolic loop, (vi) regional flights to safety, and (vii) unconventional monetary policy. We apply each of them to provide a full account of the euro crisis of 2010-12.
Financial institutions may be vulnerable to predatory short selling. When the stock of a financial institution is shorted aggressively, leverage constraints imposed by short-term creditors can force the institution to liquidate long-term investments at fire sale prices. For financial institutions that are sufficiently close to their leverage constraints, predatory short selling equilibria co-exist with no-liquidation equilibria (the vulnerability region) or may even be the unique equilibrium outcome (the doomed region). Increased coordination among short sellers expands the doomed region, where liquidation is the unique equilibrium. Our model provides a potential justification for temporary restrictions on short selling of vulnerable institutions and can be used to assess recent empirical evidence on short-sale bans.
Winner of Pagano-Zechner Prize
This chapter surveys the literature on bubbles, financial crises, and systemic risk. The first part of the chapter provides a brief historical account of bubbles and financial crisis. The second part of the chapter gives a structured overview of the literature on financial bubbles. The third part of the chapter discusses the literatures on financial crises and systemic risk, with particular emphasis on amplification and propagation mechanisms during financial crises, and the measurement of systemic risk. Finally, we point toward some questions for future research.
The aim of this paper is to conceptualize and design a risk topography that outlines a data acquisition and dissemination process that informs policymakers, researchers and market participants about systemic risk. Our approach emphasizes that systemic risk (i) cannot be detected based on measuring cash instruments, e.g., balance sheet items or ratios such as leverage and income statement items; (ii) typically builds up in the background before materializing in a crisis; and (iii), is determined by market participants’ endogenous response to various shocks. Our measurement system asks that regulators elicit from market participants their (partial equilibrium) risk as well as liquidity sensitivities (our response indicator) with respect to major risk factors and liquidity scenarios. General equilibrium responses and economy-wide system effects can be calibrated using this panel data set.
This paper develops a framework for measuring, allocating and managing systemic risk. SystRisk, our measure of total systemic risk captures the a priori cost to society for providing tail-risk insurance to the financial system. Our allocation principle distributes the total systemic risk among individual institutions according to their size-shifted marginal contributions. To describe economic shocks and systemic feedback effects we propose a reduced form stochastic model that can be calibrated to historical data. We also discuss systemic risk limits, systemic risk charges and a cap and trade system for systemic risk.
This article surveys the macroeconomic implications of financial frictions. Financial frictions lead to persistence and when combined with illiquidity to non-linear amplification eects. Risk is endogenous and liquidity spirals cause financial instability. Increasing margins further restrict leverage and exacerbate the downturn. A demand for liquid assets and a role for money emerges. The market outcome is generically not even constrained ecient and the issuance of government debt can lead to a Pareto improvement. While financial institutions can mitigate frictions, they introduce additional fragility and through their erratic money creation harm price stability.
When a firm is unable to roll over its debt, it may have to seek more expensive sources of financing or even liquidate its assets. This paper provides a normative analysis of minimizing such rollover risk, through the optimal dynamic choice of the maturity structure of debt. The objective of a firm with long-term assets is to maximize the effective maturity of its liabilities across several refinancing cycles, rather than to maximize the maturity of the current bonds outstanding. An advantage of short-term financing is that a firm, while in good financial health, can readjust its maturity structure more quickly in response to changes in its asset value.
Duration hedging might give the wrong prescription for minimizing rollover risk.
This paper summarizes and explains the main events of the liquidity and credit crunch in 2007-08. Starting with the trends leading up to the crisis, I explain how these events unfolded and how four different amplification mechanisms magnified losses in the mortgage market into large dislocations and turmoil in financial markets.
This paper studies predatory trading, trading that induces and/or exploits the need of other investors to reduce their positions. We show that if one trader needs to sell, others also sell and subsequently buy back the asset. This leads to price overshooting and a reduced liquidation value for the distressed trader. Hence, the market is illiquid when liquidity is most needed. Further, a trader profits from triggering another trader's crisis, and the crisis can spill over across traders and across markets.
When a large trader has to liquidate, "predators" also sell and withdraw liquidity. This leads to price overshooting and systemic risk.
We provide a model that links an asset's market liquidity (i.e., the ease with which it is traded) and traders' funding liquidity (i.e., the ease with which they can obtain funding). Traders provide market liquidity, and their ability to do so depends on their availability of funding. Conversely, traders' funding, i.e., their capital and margin requirements, depends on the assets' market liquidity. We show that, under certain conditions, margins are destabilizing and market liquidity and funding liquidity are mutually reinforcing, leading to liquidity spirals. The model explains the empirically documented features that market liquidity (i) can suddenly dry up, (ii) has commonality across securities, (iii) is related to volatility, (iv) is subject to “flight to quality,” and (v) co-moves with the market. The model provides new testable predictions, including that speculators' capital is a driver of market liquidity and risk premiums.
Market liquidity and the funding of traders are mutually reinforcing, giving rise to "liquidity phenomena" like fragility, commonality and flight to quality.
This paper studies the full equilibrium dynamics of an economy with financial frictions. Due to highly nonlinear amplification effects, the economy is prone to instability and occasionally enters volatile crisis episodes. Endogenous risk, driven by asset illiquidity, persists in crisis even for very low levels of exogenous risk. This phenomenon, which we call the volatility paradox, resolves the Kocherlakota (2000) critique. Endogenous leverage determines the distance to crisis. Securitization and derivatives contracts that improve risk sharing may lead to higher leverage and more frequent crises.
We develop a model of endogenous maturity structure for financial institutions that borrow from multiple creditors. We show that a maturity rat race can occur: an individual creditor can have an incentive to shorten the maturity of his own loan to the institution, allowing him to adjust his financing terms or pull out before other creditors can. This, in turn, causes all other lenders to shorten their maturity as well, leading to excessively short-term financing. This rat race occurs when interim information is mostly about the probability of default rather than the recovery in default, and is most pronounced during volatile periods and crises. Overall, firms are exposed to unnecessary rollover risk.