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Do Global Banks Spread Global Imbalances? Asset-Backed Commercial Paper during the Financial Crisis of 2007–09

Viral Acharya () and Philipp Schnabl ()

IMF Economic Review, 2010, vol. 58, issue 1, 37-73

Abstract: The global imbalance explanation of the financial crisis of 2007–09 suggests that demand for riskless assets from countries with current account surpluses created fragility in countries with current account deficits, most notably in the United States. This paper examines this explanation by analyzing the geography of asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) conduits set up by large commercial banks. The paper shows that banks in surplus countries as well as banks in deficit countries manufactured riskless assets, totaling over $1.2 trillion, by selling short-term ABCP to risk-averse investors, predominantly U.S. money market funds, and investing the proceeds primarily in long-term U.S. assets. As negative information about U.S. assets became apparent in August 2007, banks in both surplus and deficit countries experienced difficulties in rolling over ABCP and as a result suffered significant losses. The paper concludes that global banking flows, rather than global imbalances, determined the geography of the financial crisis.

Date: 2010
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