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Complexity and Financial Panics

  • Ricardo J. Caballero
  • Alp Simsek

During extreme financial crises, all of a sudden, the financial world that was once rife with profit opportunities for financial institutions (banks, for short) becomes exceedingly complex. Confusion and uncertainty follow, ravaging financial markets and triggering massive flight-to-quality episodes. In this paper we propose a model of this phenomenon. In our model, banks normally collect information about their trading partners which assures them of the soundness of these relationships. However, when acute financial distress emerges in parts of the financial network, it is not enough to be informed about these partners, as it also becomes important to learn about the health of their trading partners. As conditions continue to deteriorate, banks must learn about the health of the trading partners of the trading partners of the trading partners, and so on. At some point, the cost of information gathering becomes too unmanageable for banks, uncertainty spikes, and they have no option but to withdraw from loan commitments and illiquid positions. A flight-to-quality ensues, and the financial crisis spreads.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14997.

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Date of creation: May 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14997
Note: AP CF EFG IFM
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  1. Ricardo J. Caballero & Arvind Krishnamurthy, 2008. "Collective Risk Management in a Flight to Quality Episode," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 63(5), pages 2195-2230, October.
  2. Rodrigo Cifuentes & Hyun Song Shin & Gianluigi Ferrucci, 2005. "Liquidity Risk and Contagion," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 556-566, 04/05.
  3. Lagunoff, Roger & Schreft, Stacey L., 2001. "A Model of Financial Fragility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 99(1-2), pages 220-264, July.
  4. Bryan R. Routledge & Stanley E. Zin, 2001. "Model Uncertainty and Liquidity," NBER Working Papers 8683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Yaron Leitner, 2005. "Financial Networks: Contagion, Commitment, and Private Sector Bailouts," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(6), pages 2925-2953, December.
  6. Freixas, Xavier & Parigi, Bruno & Rochet, Jean-Charles, 1999. "Systemic Risk, Interbank Relations and Liquidity Provision by the Central Bank," CEPR Discussion Papers 2325, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Diamond, Douglas W & Dybvig, Philip H, 1983. "Bank Runs, Deposit Insurance, and Liquidity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(3), pages 401-19, June.
  8. Rochet, Jean-Charles & Tirole, Jean, 1996. "Interbank Lending and Systemic Risk," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 28(4), pages 733-62, November.
  9. Larry Eisenberg & Thomas H. Noe, 2001. "Systemic Risk in Financial Systems," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(2), pages 236-249, February.
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