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Global Imbalances and Financial Fragility

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  • Ricardo J. Caballero
  • Arvind Krishnamurthy

Abstract

The U.S. is currently engulfed in the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression. A key structural factor behind this crisis is the large demand for riskless assets from the rest of the world. In this paper we present a model to show how such demand not only triggered a sharp rise in U.S. asset prices, but also exposed the U.S. financial sector to a downturn by concentrating risk onto its balance sheet. In addition to highlighting the role of capital flows in facilitating the securitization boom, our analysis speaks to the broader issue of global imbalances. While in emerging markets the concern with capital flows is in their speculative nature, in the U.S. the risk in capital inflows derives from the opposite concern: capital flows into the U.S. are mostly non-speculative and in search of safety. As a result, the U.S. sells riskless assets to foreigners, and in so doing, it raises the effective leverage of its financial institutions. In other words, as global imbalances rise, the U.S. increasingly specializes in holding its "toxic waste."

Suggested Citation

  • Ricardo J. Caballero & Arvind Krishnamurthy, 2009. "Global Imbalances and Financial Fragility," NBER Working Papers 14688, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14688
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ricardo J. Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, 2008. "An Equilibrium Model of "Global Imbalances" and Low Interest Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 358-393, March.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • F32 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Current Account Adjustment; Short-term Capital Movements
    • F37 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Finance Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets

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