IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Leverage, Incomplete Markets and Crises


  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • John Geanakoplos & Felix Kubler, 2004. "Leverage, Incomplete Markets and Crises," 2004 Meeting Papers 557, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed004:557

    Download full text from publisher

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below 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.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Korenok, Oleg, 2008. "Empirical comparison of sticky price and sticky information models," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 906-927, September.
    2. Michael T. Kiley, 2007. "A Quantitative Comparison of Sticky-Price and Sticky-Information Models of Price Setting," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(s1), pages 101-125, February.
    3. N. Gregory Mankiw & Ricardo Reis, 2002. "Sticky Information versus Sticky Prices: A Proposal to Replace the New Keynesian Phillips Curve," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1295-1328.
    4. Mark Gertler & Jordi Gali & Richard Clarida, 1999. "The Science of Monetary Policy: A New Keynesian Perspective," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(4), pages 1661-1707, December.
    5. Pengfei Wang & Yi Wen, 2006. "Solving linear difference systems with lagged expectations by a method of undetermined coefficients," Working Papers 2006-003, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    6. Carl E. Walsh, 2003. "Monetary Theory and Policy, 2nd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262232316, January.
    7. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles L. Evans, 2005. "Nominal Rigidities and the Dynamic Effects of a Shock to Monetary Policy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 1-45, February.
    8. Calvo, Guillermo A., 1983. "Staggered prices in a utility-maximizing framework," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 383-398, September.
    9. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1973. "Some International Evidence on Output-Inflation Tradeoffs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(3), pages 326-334, June.
    10. Michael Woodford, 1996. "Control of the Public Debt: A Requirement for Price Stability?," NBER Working Papers 5684, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Julio Rotemberg & Michael Woodford, 1997. "An Optimization-Based Econometric Framework for the Evaluation of Monetary Policy," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 297-361 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Olivier Coibion & Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 2011. "Strategic Interaction among Heterogeneous Price-Setters in an Estimated DSGE Model," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 920-940, August.
    13. Yun, Tack, 1996. "Nominal price rigidity, money supply endogeneity, and business cycles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2-3), pages 345-370, April.
    14. Benjamin D. Keen, 2007. "Sticky Price And Sticky Information Price-Setting Models: What Is The Difference?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(4), pages 770-786, October.
    15. Oleg Korenok & Norman R. Swanson, 2007. "How Sticky Is Sticky Enough? A Distributional and Impulse Response Analysis of New Keynesian DSGE Models," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(6), pages 1481-1508, September.
    16. Galí, Jordi, 2002. "New Perspectives on Monetary Policy, Inflation and the Business Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 3210, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    17. Keen, Benjamin D., 2010. "The Signal Extraction Problem Revisited: A Note On Its Impact On A Model Of Monetary Policy," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(03), pages 405-426, June.
    18. Frank Smets & Raf Wouters, 2003. "An Estimated Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium Model of the Euro Area," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(5), pages 1123-1175, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. John Geanakoplos, 2010. "The Leverage Cycle," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2009, Volume 24, pages 1-65 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. John Geanakoplos, 2009. "The Leverage Cycle," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1715, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    3. John Geanakoplos, 2009. "The Leverage Cycle," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1715R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Jan 2010.
    4. John Geanakoplos, 2010. "Solving the Present Crisis and Managing the Leverage Cycle," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1751, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.

    More about this item


    default; crises; margin requirement;

    JEL classification:

    • D52 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Incomplete Markets
    • D58 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Computable and Other Applied General Equilibrium Models


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. 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). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.