The risk that asset price bubbles pose for financial stability is still not clear. Drawing on 140 years of data, this column argues that leverage is the critical determinant of crisis damage. When fuelled by credit booms, asset price bubbles are associated with high financial crisis risk; upon collapse, they coincide with weaker growth and slower recoveries. Highly leveraged housing bubbles are the worst case of all.
Òscar Jordà, Moritz Schularick, Alan Taylor, 01 September 2015
Fergal McCann, Tara McIndoe-Calder, 23 September 2014
The role of credit-fuelled property booms in the Global Crisis has received much high-profile attention in recent years. Using data on Irish small and medium enterprises, this column highlights an additional channel through which such booms can impact post-crisis growth. Firms having difficulty repaying their property-related debts divert resources away from hiring and investment. Property booms thereby induce misallocation of resources in both the boom and the bust.
Christoph Trebesch, Helios Herrera, Guillermo Ordoñez, 06 September 2014
Financial crises are often credit booms gone bust. This column argues that ‘political booms’, defined as an increase in government popularity, are also a good predictor of financial crises. The phenomenon of ‘political booms gone bust’ is, however, only observable in emerging markets. In these countries, politicians have more to gain from riding the popularity benefits of unsustainable booms.
Alberto Martin, Jaume Ventura, 05 July 2014
There is a widespread view among macroeconomists that fluctuations in collateral are an important driver of credit booms and busts. This column distinguishes between ‘fundamental’ collateral – backed by expectations of future profits – and ‘bubbly’ collateral – backed by expectations of future credit. Markets are generically unable to provide the optimal amount of bubbly collateral, which creates a natural role for stabilisation policies. A lender of last resort with the ability to tax and subsidise credit can design a ‘leaning against the wind’ policy that replicates the ‘optimal’ bubble allocation.
Charles Calomiris, 21 March 2014
Charles Calomiris talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his recent book, co-authored with Stephen Haber, ‘Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit’. They discuss how politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation and why banking systems are unstable in some countries but not in others. Calomiris also presents his analysis of the political and banking history of the UK and how the well-being of banking systems depends on complex bargains and coalitions between politicians, bankers and other stakeholders. The interview was recorded in London in February 2014.
Willem Buiter, 10 January 2014
Fiscal sustainability has become a hot topic as a result of the European sovereign debt crisis, but it matters in normal times, too. This column argues that financial sector reforms are essential to ensure fiscal sustainability in the future. Although emerging market reforms undertaken in the aftermath of the financial crises of the 1990s were beneficial, complacency is not warranted. In the US, political gridlock must be overcome to reform entitlements and the tax system. In the Eurozone, creating a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism should be a priority.
César Calderón, Megumi Kubota, 16 December 2012
How can we predict bad credit booms? This column argues that surges in gross private inflows are good predictors of booms in credit markets, especially those booms that end up in a systemic banking crisis. Using quarterly data on gross capital inflows and real credit, gross private inflows remain a useful measure even when accounting for the past history of credit and asset prices The evidence suggests that surges in capital flows may well mean future financial turmoil.
Ari Aisen, Michael Franken, 28 May 2010
What factors determined the performance of bank credit during the global crisis? This column presents evidence from 83 countries suggesting that credit booms prior to the crisis led to a sharper contraction in bank credit after the crisis. Meanwhile, the growth performance of a country’s main trading partners had a positive impact on bank credit – as did monetary policy.
Alan Taylor, Moritz Schularick, 08 December 2009
Are credit bubbles dangerous? This column presents long-run historical data showing that, over the past 140 years, episodes of financial instability were often the result of "credit booms gone wrong". Recent years witnessed an unprecedented expansion in the role of credit in the macroeconomy. It is a mishap of history that – just as credit matters more than ever before – the reigning doctrine gives it no role in central bank policies.
Giovanni Dell'Ariccia, Luc Laeven, Deniz Igan, 04 February 2008
Recent US mortgage market troubles unsteadied the global economy. This column summarises research analysing millions of loan applications to investigate the roots of the crisis. A credit boom may be to blame.