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Contagious Illiquidity I: Contagion through Time

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This paper is an investigation into the dynamics of asset markets with adverse selection à la Akerlof (1970). The particular question asked is: can market failure at some later date precipitate market failure at an earlier date? The answer is yes: there can be “contagious illiquidity” from the future back to the present. The mechanism works as follows. If the market is expected to break down in the future, then agents holding assets they know to be lemons (assets with low returns) will be forced to hold them for longer – they cannot quickly resell them. As a result, the effective difference in payoff between a lemon and a good asset is greater. But it is known from the static Akerlof model that the greater the payoff differential between lemons and non-lemons, the more likely is the market to break down. Hence market failure in the future is more likely to lead to market failure today. Conversely, if the market is not anticipated to break down in the future, assets can be readily sold and hence an agent discovering that his or her asset is a lemon can quickly jettison it. In effect, there is little difference in payoff between a lemon and a good asset. The logic of the static Akerlof model then runs the other way: the small payoff differential is unlikely to lead to market breakdown today. The conclusion of the paper is that the nature of today’s market – liquid or illiquid – hinges critically on the nature of tomorrow’s market, which in turn depends on the next day’s, and so on. The tail wags the dog.

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Paper provided by Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh in its series ESE Discussion Papers with number 231.

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Length: 18
Date of creation: 04 Nov 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:edn:esedps:231

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  1. Alessandro Lizzeri, 2003. "Efficient Sorting in a Dynamic Adverse Selection Model," Theory workshop papers 505798000000000098, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. V.V. Chari & Ali Shourideh & Ariel Zetlin-Jones, 2010. "Adverse Selection, Reputation and Sudden Collapses in Secondary Loan Markets," NBER Working Papers 16080, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Igal Hendel & Alessandro Lizzeri, 1997. "Adverse Selection in Durable Goods Markets," NBER Working Papers 6194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Patrick Bolton & Tano Santos & Jose A. Scheinkman, 2011. "Outside and Inside Liquidity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 259-321.
  5. Andrea L. Eisfeldt, 2004. "Endogenous Liquidity in Asset Markets," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(1), pages 1-30, 02.
  6. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
  7. Eisfeldt, Andrea L. & Rampini, Adriano A., 2006. "Capital reallocation and liquidity," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(3), pages 369-399, April.
  8. Jean Tirole, 2012. "Overcoming Adverse Selection: How Public Intervention Can Restore Market Functioning," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 29-59, February.
  9. Pablo Kurlat, 2013. "Lemons Markets and the Transmission of Aggregate Shocks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(4), pages 1463-89, June.
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