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How did a domestic housing slump turn into a global financial crisis?

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  • Steven B. Kamin
  • Laurie Pounder DeMarco
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    Abstract

    The global financial crisis clearly started with problems in the U.S. subprime sector and spread across the world from there. But was the direct exposure of foreigners to the U.S. financial system a key driver of the crisis, or did other factors account for its rapid contagion across the world? To answer this question, we assessed whether countries that held large amounts of U.S. mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and were highly dependent on dollar funding experienced a greater degree of financial distress during the crisis. We found little evidence of such "direct contagion" from the United States to abroad. Although CDS spreads generally rose higher and bank stocks generally fell lower in countries with more exposure to U.S. MBS and greater dollar funding needs, these correlations were not robust, and they fail to explain the lion's share of the deterioration in asset prices that took place during the crisis. Accordingly, channels of "indirect contagion" may have played a more important role in the global spread of the crisis: a generalized run on global financial institutions, given the opacity of their balance sheets; excessive dependence on short-term funding; vicious cycles of mark-to-market losses driving fire sales of MBS; the realization that financial firms around the world were pursuing similar (flawed) business models; and global swings in risk aversion. The U.S. subprime crisis, rather than being a fundamental driver of the global crisis, may have been merely a trigger for a global bank run and for disillusionment with a risky business model that already had spread around the world.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series International Finance Discussion Papers with number 994.

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    Date of creation: 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgif:994

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    Related research

    Keywords: Mortgage-backed securities ; Financial crises;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

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    Cited by:
    1. Gian-Maria Milesi-Ferretti, Cédric Tille, 2010. "The Great Retrenchment: International Capital Flows During the Global Financial Crisis," IHEID Working Papers 18-2010, Economics Section, The Graduate Institute of International Studies, revised 15 Sep 2010.
    2. Rose, Andrew K & Spiegel, Mark, 2010. "Cross-Country Causes and Consequences of the Crisis: An Update," CEPR Discussion Papers 7901, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Bertaut, Carol & DeMarco, Laurie Pounder & Kamin, Steven & Tryon, Ralph, 2012. "ABS inflows to the United States and the global financial crisis," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(2), pages 219-234.
    4. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Rey, Hélène & Truempler, Kai Alexander, 2011. "The Financial Crisis and the Geography of Wealth Transfers," CEPR Discussion Papers 8567, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Kamin, Steven B. & DeMarco, Laurie Pounder, 2012. "How did a domestic housing slump turn into a global financial crisis?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 10-41.
    6. Cédric Tille, 2012. "Sailing Through This Storm? Capital Flows In Asia During The Crisis," Pacific Economic Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17(3), pages 467-488, 08.

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