Ed Dolan's Econ Blog

Roubini Topic Archive: Systemic Risk, Vulnerabilities and Asset Bubbles

  • The Case for Breaking Up Too-Big-To-Fail Banks

    The presidential campaign has brought new attention to the problem of banks that are too big to fail (TBTF). As everyone agrees, the largest banks are bigger than ever. As the following chart shows, the share of all bank assets held by the four largest banks rose from 33 percent in 2007 to 41 percent […]

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  • Program Notes for the Greek Endgame: Austerity, Cyprus, and Currency Union Exits

    The Greek government has rejected the latest austerity and reform proposals from the EU, the ECB, and the IMF.  It has declared a national referendum, scheduled for Sunday, and urges a “No” vote. “”We ask you to reject it with all the might of your soul, with the greatest margin possible,” says Prime Minister Alexis […]

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  • Does Peak Phosphate Spell Doom for Humanity, or Will the Market Save Us?

    Although climate change catches the headlines, it is not the only doomsday scenario out there. A smaller but no less fervent band of worriers think that peak phosphate—a catastrophic decline in output of an essential fertilizer—will get us first. One of the worriers is Jeremy Grantham of the global investment management firm GMO. Grantham foresees […]

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  • Are Banks Safe Enough? Do we Really Know? Risk Weighting, Regulatory Arbitrage, and other Issues

    During the global financial crisis, people in the United States, Ireland, Iceland, and many other countries learned that undercapitalized banks can spell trouble for the whole economy. The Basel II rules that were supposed to prevent widespread bank failures proved inadequate. In response to the crisis, the world’s central bankers and bank regulators started work […]

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  • Are Financial Regulators Flying Blind? Would Better “Risk Topography” Help?

    Data on the capital and liquidity of banks are the navigation aids that regulators depend on to avoid another financial crash. Improvements to these indicators, adopted last year by the Basel Committee on Bank Supervision, are among the most heralded regulatory reforms since the 2008 crisis. But what if the instruments are faulty, even in their upgraded form? If so, regulators are flying blind, and our chances of avoiding another crash are slim. What can be done?

    A recent paper by three prominent financial economists suggests one possible answer: a sort of Manhattan project that would map out a “risk topography” of the financial system. The authors are Markus K. Brunnermeier of Princeton, Gary Gorton of Yale, and Arvind Krishnamurthy of Northwestern. All three are also affiliated with the National Bureau of Economics Research. (I will refer to the team in what follows as BG&K.)

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  • Could an Obscure Loophole Cause the Euro to Go the Way of the Ruble?

    Could an obscure loophole known as emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) lead to the collapse of the euro area, much as the post-Soviet ruble area collapsed in 1991-1993? Some people seem to think so. The Irish Independent says that the use of ELA by the Irish central bank amounts to “printing its own money.” Tracy Alloway, writing on, emphasizes the secret, hush-hush nature of ELA operations. One blogger goes so far as to speak of hyperinflation. Is there really something fishy going on? And what does ELA have to do with the ruble?

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  • Does Argentina’s “Nike Effect” Hold Lessons for Europe?

    What happens when a country faces forced austerity, a banking crisis, a risk of sovereign default, and pressure to abandon a currency peg it has sworn to be eternal and unbreakable? Several European countries are in this position today, but there is nothing really new about it. It’s all happened before, most recently in Argentina in the winter of 2001-02. So what became of Argentina? Are there any lessons there for today’s Europe?

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  • No Fix for U.S. Fiscal Policy Without New Rules

    A short time ago, I wrote that the EU needs better rules for fiscal policy. So does the United States. A new report from the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform provides an outline for such a set of rules. It is unfortunate that the Peterson-Pew report has been overshadowed by the almost simultaneous release of the draft co-chairs’ report of the president’s fiscal reform commission, because they complement one another. The mandate of the president’s commission is to figure out a combination of tax reform and spending cuts that will get the deficit down to a sustainable level, whereas the Peterson-Pew report focuses on the rules needed to maintain sustainability over the long term.

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  • Could QE2 Cause the Fed to Go Broke?

    The Fed’s new program of quantitative easing, QE2, once again raises an old question: Can central banks go broke? Conventional analysis, aptly summarized by Willem Buiter in a 2008 report, says no, or at least, hardly ever. However, when we look closely, the conventional analysis is not altogether reassuring. Although the Fed most assuredly is not going to go broke, preventing that from happening could raise difficult political issues and perhaps even threaten the Fed’s independence.

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