Monday, April 26, 2010

Hamilton: Follow the Money

Sick and busy today so I'll outsource to James Hamilton at Econbrowser with his post on the housing market melt-down. Here is the conclusion:

To the extent that purchases of mortgages were being ultimately being funded by short-term borrowing through commercial paper or repos, the institution borrowing in this manner was essentially fulfilling the function of a bank-- borrowing short and lending long. If, as happened starting in 2007, those providing the short-run funds choose not to renew the loans, the institution would be forced to liquidate its long positions in a market where the underlying securities could only be sold at a deep loss. In other words, there would be a run on the shadow banking system.

Now, there are two aspects of the situation that began in August 2007 that one might choose to emphasize. The first perspective supposes that self-fulfilling fear itself is the key dynamic that propagates the crisis, as fire-sale prices create ever-spreading losses. When calm and rational valuation return, all will be well. The key problem, according to this perspective, is that would-be short-term lenders were hit in August 2007 with a sudden irrational lack of exuberance that ended up persisting over a year and bringing much of the world economy down with it.

The other perspective of what happened beginning in 2007 is that those Other People-- the ones who ultimately provided the Money that drove all this-- finally started to wise up.

1 comment:

Carly said...

The whole mortgage crisis scares me. I live in New York City and have my own dating blog www.carlysdatingchronicles.com and I know so many people that were affected by this. How terrifying that in today's day you can't even get a loan??