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Testing Macroprudential Stress Tests: The Risk of Regulatory Risk Weights

  • Viral V. Acharya
  • Robert Engle
  • Diane Pierret

Macroprudential stress tests have been employed by regulators in the United States and Europe to assess and address the solvency condition of financial firms in adverse macroeconomic scenarios. We provide a test of these stress tests by comparing their risk assessments and outcomes to those from a simple methodology that relies on publicly available market data and forecasts the capital shortfall of financial firms in severe market-wide downturns. We find that: (i) The losses projected on financial firm balance-sheets compare well between actual stress tests and the market-data based assessments, and both relate well to actual realized losses in case of future stress to the economy; (ii) In striking contrast, the required capitalization of financial firms in stress tests is found to be rather low, and inadequate ex post, compared to that implied by market data; (iii) This discrepancy arises due to the reliance on regulatory risk weights in determining required levels of capital once stress-test losses are taken into account. In particular, the continued reliance on regulatory risk weights in stress tests appears to have left financial sectors under-capitalized, especially during the European sovereign debt crisis, and likely also provided perverse incentives to build up exposures to low risk-weight assets.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18968.

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Date of creation: Apr 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Acharya, Viral & Engle, Robert & Pierret, Diane, 2014. "Testing macroprudential stress tests: The risk of regulatory risk weights," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 36-53.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18968
Note: CF ME
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  1. Mariathasan, Mike & Merrouche, Ouarda, 2013. "The Manipulation of Basel Risk-Weights," CEPR Discussion Papers 9494, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Thomas Breuer & Martin Jandacka & Klaus Rheinberger & Martin Summer, 2009. "How to find plausible, severe, and useful stress scenarios," Working Papers 150, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank).
  3. Sonali Das & Amadou N. R. Sy, 2012. "How Risky Are Banks' Risk Weighted Assets? Evidence From the Financial Crisis," IMF Working Papers 12/36, International Monetary Fund.
  4. repec:fip:fedhpr:y:2010:i:may:p:65-71 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Acharya, Viral V & Steffen, Sascha, 2013. "The "Greatest" Carry Trade Ever? Understanding Eurozone Bank Risks," CEPR Discussion Papers 9432, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Xin Huang & Hao Zhou & Haibin Zhu, 2009. "A Framework for Assessing the Systemic Risk of Major Financial Institutions," BIS Working Papers 281, Bank for International Settlements.
  7. Viral V. Acharya, 2010. "Measuring systemic risk," Proceedings 1140, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  8. Claudio Borio & Mathias Drehmann, 2011. "Toward an Operational Framework for Financial Stability: “Fuzzy” Measurement and Its Consequences," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series, in: Rodrigo Alfaro (ed.), Financial Stability, Monetary Policy, and Central Banking, edition 1, volume 15, chapter 4, pages 063-123 Central Bank of Chile.
  9. Rodrigo Alfaro & Mathias Drehmann, 2009. "Macro stress tests and crises: what can we learn?," BIS Quarterly Review, Bank for International Settlements, December.
  10. Xin Huang & Hao Zhou & Haibin Zhu, 2011. "Systemic risk contributions," BIS Papers chapters, in: Bank for International Settlements (ed.), Macroprudential regulation and policy, volume 60, pages 36-43 Bank for International Settlements.
  11. Samuel G. Hanson & Anil K. Kashyap & Jeremy C. Stein, 2011. "A Macroprudential Approach to Financial Regulation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 3-28, Winter.
  12. Andrew G. Haldane & Vasileios Madouros, 2012. "The dog and the frisbee," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 109-159.
  13. Petrella, Giovanni & Resti, Andrea, 2013. "Supervisors as information producers: Do stress tests reduce bank opaqueness?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 5406-5420.
  14. Beverly Hirtle & Til Schuermann & Kevin Stiroh, 2009. "Macroprudential supervision of financial institutions: lessons from the SCAP," Staff Reports 409, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  15. Viral V. Acharya & Lasse H. Pedersen & Thomas Philippon & Matthew Richardson, 2010. "Measuring systemic risk," Working Paper 1002, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  16. Claudio Borio & Mathias Drehmann & Kostas Tsatsaronis, 2012. "Stress-testing macro stress testing: does it live up to expectations?," BIS Working Papers 369, Bank for International Settlements.
  17. Viral V. Acharya & Sascha Steffen, 2013. "The "Greatest" Carry Trade Ever? Understanding Eurozone Bank Risks," NBER Working Papers 19039, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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