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Safety Transformation and the Structure of the Financial System

William Diamond

Journal of Finance, 2020, vol. 75, issue 6, 2973-3012

Abstract: This paper studies how a financial system that is organized to efficiently create safe assets responds to macroeconomic shocks. Financial intermediaries face a cost of bearing risk, so they choose the least risky portfolio that backs their issuance of riskless deposits: a diversified pool of nonfinancial firms' debt. Nonfinancial firms choose their capital structure to exploit the resulting segmentation between debt and equity markets. Increased safe asset demand yields larger and riskier intermediaries and more levered firms. Quantitative easing reduces the size and riskiness of intermediaries and can decrease firm leverage, despite reducing borrowing costs at the zero lower bound.

Date: 2020
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Handle: RePEc:bla:jfinan:v:75:y:2020:i:6:p:2973-3012