Financial markets

Persistent noise trading and market meltdowns

Giovanni Cespa, Xavier Vives, 22 April 2014

Since capital flows to and from hedge funds are strongly related to past performance, an exogenous liquidity shock can trigger a vicious cycle of outflows and declining performance. Therefore, ‘noise’ trades – usually thought of as erratic – may in fact be persistent. Based on recent research, this column argues that there can be multiple equilibria with different levels of liquidity and informational efficiency, and that the high-information equilibrium is unstable. The model provides a lens through which to interpret the ‘Quant Meltdown’ of August 2007 and the recent financial crisis.

Derivatives and the Eurozone crisis

Anne-Laure Delatte, Julien Fouquau, Richard Portes, 17 April 2014

In retrospect, it is striking that the sovereign bond spreads of peripheral Eurozone countries surged while the economic conditions were gradually deteriorating. This column provides a new explanation for this phenomenon. It suggests that the markets in credit default swap indices have exacerbated shocks to economic fundamentals. The same change in fundamentals had a higher impact on the spread during the crisis period than it had previously.

Personal experience and risk aversion in times of crisis

Peter Koudijs, Hans-Joachim Voth, 12 April 2014

Human behaviour in times of financial crises is difficult to understand, but critical to policymaking. This column discusses new evidence showing that personal experience in financial markets can dramatically change risk tolerance. A cleanly identified historical episode demonstrates that even without losses, negative shocks not only modify risk appetite, but can also create ‘leverage cycles’. These, in turn, have the potential to make markets extremely fragile. Remarkably, those who witnessed this episode but were not directly threatened by it, did not change their own behaviour. Thus, personal experience can be a powerful determinant of investors’ actions and can eventually affect aggregate instability.

Understanding contagious bank runs

Martin Brown, Stefan Trautmann, Razvan Vlahu, 10 April 2014

Contagious bank runs are an important source of systemic risk. However, with observational data it is near-impossible to disentangle the contagion of bank runs from other potential causes of correlated deposit withdrawals across banks. This column discusses an experimental investigation of the mechanisms behind contagion. The authors find that panic-based deposit withdrawals can be strongly contagious across banks, but only if depositors know that the banks are economically related.

How to loosen the banks-sovereign nexus

Paolo Angelini, Giuseppe Grande, 8 April 2014

The ‘deadly embrace’ between banks and their government has strengthened with the EZ Crisis. This column argues that this has mostly been consequence rather than a cause of the Crisis. Moreover, adverse bank-sovereign negative feedback depends on the economy-wide effects of the sovereign risk, not just the banks’ direct exposure. Loosening the embrace requires sound public finances and well-capitalized, well-supervised banks – including the banking union project.

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