Monday, April 21, 2008

History Rhymes

Here's a summary and here's the full 120 page beast:

These guys look through almost 800 years of data, tracking default episodes and periods of financial crises. The stylized facts they've found are pretty eye-opening and really put the period that we're in right now into context.

Two especially important results:
"Serial default on external debt—that is, repeated sovereign default—is the norm throughout nearly every region in the world, including Asia and Europe.


Another regularity found in the literature on modern financial crises is that countries experiencing large capital inflows are at high risk of having a debt crisis. Default is likely to be accompanied by a currency crash and a spurt of inflation. The evidence here suggests the same to be true over a much broader sweep of history, with surges in capital inflows often preceding external debt crises at the country, regional, and global level since 1800, if not before."

"Also consonant with the modern theory of crises is the striking correlation between freer capital mobility and the incidence of banking crises, as shown in Figure 2. Periods of high international capital mobility have repeatedly produced international banking crises, not only famously as they did in the 1990s, but historically."

These two quotes offer an interesting look at the US's current situation: namely, are we going to enter a period of international debt defaults? Further, it offers an interesting look at globalization. It's interesting to think about this in terms of the LTCM collapse. Sure they help geographically diverse assets that should be uncorrelated, except as financial barriers fall, increasingly many disparate assets are held by the same people, thus when things go to hell, there's still going to be correlation as those holders are forced to liquidate their assets. It seems this provides historical evidence for that idea: perhaps as capital mobility rises,the concept of diversification goes hay-wire because there's this latent correlation between assets.


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