IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Panic of 2007

  • Gary B. Gorton

How did problems with subprime mortgages result in a systemic crisis, a panic? The ongoing Panic of 2007 is due to a loss of information about the location and size of risks of loss due to default on a number of interlinked securities, special purpose vehicles, and derivatives, all related to subprime mortgages. Subprime mortgages are a financial innovation designed to provide home ownership opportunities to riskier borrowers. Addressing their risk required a particular design feature, linked to house price appreciation. Subprime mortgages were then financed via securitization, which in turn has a unique design reflecting the subprime mortgage design. Subprime securitization tranches were often sold to CDOs, which were, in turn, often purchased by market value off-balance sheet vehicles. Additional subprime risk was created (though not on net) with derivatives. When the housing price bubble burst, this chain of securities, derivatives, and off-balance sheet vehicles could not be penetrated by most investors to determine the location and size of the risks. The introduction of the ABX indices, synthetics related to portfolios of subprime bonds, in 2006 created common knowledge about the effects of these risks by providing centralized prices and a mechanism for shorting. I describe the relevant securities, derivatives, and vehicles and provide some very simple, stylized, examples to show: (1) how asymmetric information between the sell-side and the buy-side was created via complexity; (2) how the chain of interlinked securities was sensitive to house prices; (3) how the risk was spread in an opaque way; and (4) how the ABX indices allowed information to be aggregated and revealed. I argue that these details are at the heart of the answer to the question of the origin of the Panic of 2007.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14358.

in new window

Date of creation: Sep 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Gary Gorton, 2009. "Information, Liquidity, and the (Ongoing) Panic of 2007," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 567-72, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14358
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Gary Gorton & Richard Rosen, 1995. "Banks and Derivatives," NBER Working Papers 5100, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Gary Gorton & Richard Rosen, 1995. "Banks and Derivatives," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1995, Volume 10, pages 299-349 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Adrian D'Silva & Brian Gordon, 2008. "Hedges in the warehouse: the banks get trimmed," Chicago Fed Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Apr.
  3. Souphala Chomsisengphet & Anthony Pennington-Cross, 2006. "The evolution of the subprime mortgage market," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 31-56.
  4. Gary Richardson & William Troost, 2006. "Monetary Intervention Mitigated Banking Panics During the Great Depression: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from the Federal Reserve District Border in Mississippi, 1929 to 1933," NBER Working Papers 12591, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Souphala Chomsisengphet & Anthony Pennington-Cross, 2006. "Subprime refinancing: equity extraction and mortgage termination," Working Papers 2006-023, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  6. Cormac Ó Gráda & Morgan Kelly, 2000. "Market contagion : evidence from the panics of 1854 and 1857," Open Access publications 10197/459, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  7. Bhardwaj, Geetesh & Sengupta, Rajdeep, 2012. "Subprime mortgage design," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 1503-1519.
  8. Robert J. Shiller, 2007. "Understanding Recent Trends in House Prices and Home Ownership," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1630, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Oct 2007.
  9. Pagano, Marco, 1989. "Endogenous Market Thinness and Stock Price Volatility," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(2), pages 269-87, April.
  10. Kelly, M. & O'Grada, C., 1999. "Market Contagion: Evidence from the Panics of 1854 and 1857," Papers 99/19, College Dublin, Department of Political Economy-.
  11. Bank for International Settlements, 1999. "Implications of repo markets for central banks," CGFS Papers, Bank for International Settlements, number 10, Autumn.
  12. Gary Gorton & George Pennacchi, 1990. "Banks and Loan Sales: Marketing Non-Marketable Assets," NBER Working Papers 3551, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Gorton, Gary, 1994. "Bank Regulation When 'Banks' and 'Banking' Are Not the Same," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(4), pages 106-19, Winter.
  14. Gorton, Gary, 1988. "Banking Panics and Business Cycles," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 40(4), pages 751-81, December.
  15. John H. Boyd & Mark Gertler, 1994. "Are banks dead? or, are the reports greatly exaggerated?," Working Papers 531, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  16. John Taylor & John Williams, 2008. "Further Results on a Black Swan in the Money Market," Discussion Papers 07-046, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  17. Glenn B. Canner & Wayne Passmore & Elizabeth Laderman, 1999. "The role of specialized lenders in extending mortgages to lower-income and minority homebuyers," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Nov, pages 709-726.
  18. Charles Calomiris & Joseph Mason, 2004. "Credit Card Securitization and Regulatory Arbitrage," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 5-27, August.
  19. Gary Richardson, 2006. "Bank Distress During the Great Contraction, 1929 to 1933, New Data from the Archives of the Board of Governors," NBER Working Papers 12590, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Yuliya Demyanyk & Otto Van Hemert, 2007. "Understanding the subprime mortgage crisis," Supervisory Policy Analysis Working Papers 2007-05, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  21. Moen, Jon & Tallman, Ellis W., 1992. "The Bank Panic of 1907: The Role of Trust Companies," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(03), pages 611-630, September.
  22. Gary Gorton & Ping He & Lixin Huang, 2006. "Asset Prices When Agents are Marked-to-Market," NBER Working Papers 12075, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. David B. Gross, 2002. "An Empirical Analysis of Personal Bankruptcy and Delinquency," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(1), pages 319-347, March.
  24. François-Louis Michaud & Christian Upper, 2008. "What drives interbank rates? Evidence from the Libor panel," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, March.
  25. Sanford J Grossman & Joseph E Stiglitz, 1997. "On the Impossibility of Informationally Efficient Markets," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1908, David K. Levine.
  26. Charles W. Calomiris & Gary Gorton, 1991. "The Origins of Banking Panics: Models, Facts, and Bank Regulation," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Markets and Financial Crises, pages 109-174 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Allen N. Berger & Anil K. Kashyap & Joseph Scalise, 1995. "The Transformation of the U.S. Banking Industry: What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 96-06, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  28. Guillaume Plantin & Haresh Sapra & Hyun Shin, . "Marking to Market: Panacea or Pandora’s Box ?," GSIA Working Papers 2005-E4, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  29. Benveniste Lawrence M. & Singh Manoj & Wilhelm Jr. , William J., 1993. "The Failure of Drexel Burnham Lambert: Evidence on the Implications for Commercial Banks," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 104-137, October.
  30. Paul Milgrom & Nancy L.Stokey, 1979. "Information, Trade, and Common Knowledge," Discussion Papers 377R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  31. Miller, Merton H., 1986. "Financial Innovation: The Last Twenty Years and the Next," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(04), pages 459-471, December.
  32. Sanford J. Grossman, 1987. "An Analysis of the Implications for Stock and Futures Price Volatility of Program Trading and Dynamic Hedging Strategies," NBER Working Papers 2357, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  33. Geetesh Bhardwaj & Rajdeep Sengupta, 2008. "Where's the smoking gun? a study of underwriting standards for US subprime mortgages," Working Papers 2008-036, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  34. Karl E. Case & Robert J. Shiller, 2003. "Is There a Bubble in the Housing Market?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(2), pages 299-362.
  35. Gorton, Gary & Mullineaux, Donald J, 1987. "The Joint Production of Confidence: Endogenous Regulation and Nineteenth Century Commercial-Bank Clearinghouses," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 19(4), pages 457-68, November.
  36. Alan Greenspan & James Kennedy, 2008. "Sources and uses of equity extracted from homes," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(1), pages 120-144, spring.
  37. Allen Frankel, 2006. "Prime or not so prime? An exploration of US housing finance in the new century," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, March.
  38. Charles W. Calomiris & Joseph R. Mason, 1994. "Contagion and Bank Failures During the Great Depression: The June 1932 Chicago Banking Panic," NBER Working Papers 4934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  39. Christopher J. Mayer & Karen Pence, 2008. "Subprime Mortgages: What, Where, and to Whom?," NBER Working Papers 14083, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  40. Paul S. Mills & John Kiff, 2007. "Money for Nothing and Checks for Free: Recent Developments in U.S. Subprime Mortgage Markets," IMF Working Papers 07/188, International Monetary Fund.
  41. Chris Mayer & Karen Pence, 2008. "Subprime mortgages: what, where, and to whom?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2008-29, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14358. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.