Daily Academic Alpha: Financial Crisis Theory

Daily Academic Alpha: Financial Crisis Theory

April 10, 2015 Uncategorized
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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2017)

Lending Booms, Smart Bankers and Financial Crises

This paper develops a theory that explains why financial crises follow profitable lending booms. When agents exhibit the “availability heuristic” and there is a long period of banking profitability, all agents — banks, their investors and regulators — end up in an “availability cascade,” overestimating bankers’ risk-management skills and underestimating the probability that observed outcomes are due to good luck. Consequently, banks profitably invest in riskier assets. Subsequently, if a public signal reveals that outcomes are luck-driven, investors withdraw funds, liquidity evaporates, and a crisis ensues. A loan resale market improves liquidity but increases the probability of a crisis.

Rare Events, Financial Crises, and the Cross-Section of Asset Returns

Similarities between the Great Depression and the Great Recession are documented with respect to the behavior of financial markets. A Great Depression regime is identified by using a Markov-switching VAR. The probability of this regime has remained close to zero for many decades, but spiked for a short period during the most recent financial crisis, the Great Recession. The Great Depression regime implies a collapse of the stock market, with small-growth stocks outperforming small-value stocks. This helps to explain the cross section of asset returns when risk is priced according to a version of the “Bad Beta, Good Beta” Intertemporal CAPM that allows for regime changes.


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About the Author

Wesley R. Gray, Ph.D.

After serving as a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, Dr. Gray earned a PhD, and worked as a finance professor at Drexel University. Dr. Gray’s interest in bridging the research gap between academia and industry led him to found Alpha Architect, an asset management that delivers affordable active exposures for tax-sensitive investors. Dr. Gray has published four books and a number of academic articles. Wes is a regular contributor to multiple industry outlets, to include the following: Wall Street Journal, Forbes, ETF.com, and the CFA Institute. Dr. Gray earned an MBA and a PhD in finance from the University of Chicago and graduated magna cum laude with a BS from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.