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From complacency to crisis: financial risk taking in the early 21st century

  • Danielle DiMartino
  • John V. Duca
  • Harvey Rosenblum

During the first half of this decade, the belief that new financial products would adequately shield investors from risk encouraged financial flows to less creditworthy households and businesses. By late 2006, U.S. financial markets were flashing warning signals of a potential financial crisis. ; In a sign that investors had become too complacent, risk premiums had all but vanished in junk bond and emerging-market interest rate spreads. Then, conditions changed abruptly. In the important and usually stable market for asset-backed commercial paper, premiums on three-month paper over Treasury bills jumped from 0.17 percentage point in February 2007 to 2.15 points in August. Meanwhile, rising subprime mortgage defaults led investors to abandon their sanguine beliefs about the risk of many mortgage and nonmortgage products. ; The backdrop for these events was a period of macroeconomic stability that fed complacency about risk. This relatively benign economic environment, when combined with the new, structured financial products, increased financial flows to nonprime mortgage and business borrowers. The result was an overeager acceptance of risk taking that began correcting itself only after mounting subprime mortgage defaults reverberated through the broader financial markets.

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File URL: http://dallasfed.org/assets/documents/research/eclett/2007/el0712.pdf
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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in its journal Economic Letter.

Volume (Year): 2 (2007)
Issue (Month): dec ()
Pages:

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Handle: RePEc:fip:feddel:y:2007:i:dec:n:v.2no.12
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