IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Leverage, Incomplete Markets and Crises

Listed author(s):
  • John Geanakoplos
  • Felix Kubler

In this paper we present circumstances under which the possibility of high leverage can lead to widespread default and national crises. In models with incomplete markets, default and production, there will almost always be a mismatch between firm output across states of nature and asset promises. Default mechanisms are crucial institutions in allowing trade to go forward. We suppose that defaulters are forced to pay for as much of their debt as they can out of the money and goods they have on hand, and they are not punished. No provision is made for goods in process that might be worth more later if the firm were not required immediately to sell all its assets but instead were permitted to continue to produce even after defaulting. We thus assume that default incurs liquidation costs. If a firm is a debtor and finds that it must default in some state of the world because its productivity is unusually low, these liquidation costs will magnify the productivity shock. But if a firm anticipates that in some state of the world many of its competitors will default and go out of business, then it will anticipate that its output will sell for a much higher price in that state. The firm would thus try hard to adjust its production plan to remain in business in that state, and national crises will be curtailed. However, if through some mechanism (e.g. dollar denominated debt in developing countries) the debt burden to a firm that remains in business in the state where many firms default will also grow, a typical firm may find that remaining in business in the state is more expensive, not more profitable. Thus the firm will not try to avoid the kinds of loans that lead to default in that state. In short, a borrowing firm does not take into account the externality that leveraging its debt makes it more likely that other firms in the same industry will default. Since lenders and borrowers will then rationally anticipate higher defaults even for high collateral loans, they will be led to agree to loans with lower collateral (higher leverage) and widespread default cannot be avoided.

To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2004 Meeting Papers with number 557.

in new window

Date of creation: 2004
Handle: RePEc:red:sed004:557
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

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:red:sed004:557. 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: (Christian Zimmermann)

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.