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Editor’s note: This post was updated on June 15 to clarify details regarding suspension of the Bank Act.
Money was plentiful in the United Kingdom in 1842, and with low yields on government bonds and railway shares paying handsome dividends, the desire to speculate spread—as one observer put it, “the contagion passed to all, and from the clerk to the capitalist the fever reigned uncontrollable and uncontrolled” (Francis’s History of the Bank of England). And so began railway mania. Just as that bubble began to burst, a massive harvest failure in England and Ireland led to surging food imports, which drained gold reserves from the Bank of England. Constrained by the Bank Charter Act, the Bank responded by tightening policy. When food prices fell in the spring of 1847 on the prospects for a successful harvest, commodity speculators were caught short and a crisis, one of the worst in British history (Bordo), ensued. In this edition of Crisis Chronicles, we cover the Commercial Crisis of 1847.
Centered in London, the banking panic of 1825 has been called the first modern financial crisis, the first Latin American crisis, and the first emerging market crisis. And while the panic displayed many of the key elements of past crises we have covered—fluctuations in money growth, an investment bubble, a stock market crash, and bank runs—this crisis had its own twists, including a Bank of England that hesitated before stepping in as lender of last resort. But it is perhaps best known for an infamous bond market swindle surrounding an entirely made-up Central American principality. In this edition of Crisis Chronicles, we explore the Panic of 1825 and visit the mythical nation of Poyais.
As we observed in our last post on the Continental Currency Crisis, the finances of the United States remained chaotic through the 1780s as the young government moved to establish its credit. U.S. Congress was finally given the power of taxation in 1787 and, in 1789, Alexander Hamilton was appointed as the first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton moved quickly to begin paying off war debts and to establish a national bank—the Bank of the United States. But in 1791, a burst of financial speculation in subscription rights to shares in the new bank caused a tangential rally and fall in public debt securities prices. In this edition of Crisis Chronicles, we describe how Hamilton invented central bank crisis management techniques eight decades before Walter Bagehot described them in Lombard Street.
This post is the sixth in a series of six Liberty Street Economics posts on liquidity issues.
Prior to the Great Recession, the focus of bank regulation was on bank capital with little consensus about the need for liquidity regulation. This view was in contrast with an existing body of academic research that pointed to inefficiencies in environments with strictly private provision of liquidity, via either interbank markets or credit line agreements. In spite of theoretical results pointing to the possible benefits of liquidity regulation for reducing fire sales in crises or the risk of panics due to coordination failures, a common view was that its costs might exceed its benefits, especially given a situation in which there is an active lender of last resort (LLR).
One of the most interesting phenomena marking the recent financial crisis was the disruptions in the interbank market, where banks borrow and lend reserves to each other. This post draws upon my paper with Douglas Gale, “Liquidity Hoarding,” to discuss this practice by banks during times of increased uncertainty about future liquidity needs and its consequences for the efficient transfer of liquidity in the interbank market.
This week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke completed his four-lecture series for undergraduate students at the George Washington School of Business in Washington, D.C. The lectures have been part of the Chairman’s ongoing effort to educate the public about the Federal Reserve and the role it played during the recent financial crisis. Building upon last week’s broad overview of the origin and mission of central banks and the lessons learned from previous financial crises, this week’s lectures—presented on March 27 and 29—centered on the financial crisis that emerged in 2007. The Chairman discussed the build-up of the crisis and the actions taken by the Federal Reserve and other central banks to address the financial crisis and the ensuing recession.
Though not literally a window any longer, the “discount window” refers to the facilities that central banks, acting as lender of last resort, use to provide liquidity to commercial banks. While the need for a discount window and lender of last resort has been debated, the basic rationale for their existence is that circumstances can arise, such as bank runs and panics, when even fundamentally sound banks cannot raise liquidity on short notice. Massive discount window borrowing in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States clearly illustrates the importance of a discount window even in a modern economy. In this post, we discuss the classical rationale for the discount window, some debate surrounding it, and the challenges that the “stigma” associated with borrowing at the discount window poses for the effectiveness of the discount window.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from economists working at the intersection of research and policy. The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Donald Morgan.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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