Friday, June 12, 2015

The Minsky "displacement" that caused the ongoing crisis, was the credit risk weighted capital requirements for banks.

I cite from Charles P. Kindleberger’s “Manias, Panics and Crashes” 1978.

“Financial crisis are associated with the peaks of business cycles… the culmination of a period of expansion.

According to Hyman Minsky, events leading up to a crisis start with a ‘displacement’ some exogenous, outside shock to the macroeconomic system. The nature of this displacement varies from one speculative boom to another. It may be the outbreak or end of a war, a bumper harvest or crop failure, the widespread adoption of an invention with pervasive effects – canals, railroads, the automobile – some political event or surprising financial success, or a debt conversion that precipitously lower interest rates. But whatever the source of the displacement, if it is sufficiently large and pervasive, it will alter the economic outlook by changing profit opportunities in at least one important sector of the economy. Displacement brings opportunities for profit in some new or existing lines, and closes out others… a boom is under way.

In Minsky’s model, the boom is fed by an expansion of bank credit which enlarges the total money supply… Bank credit is, or at least has been, notoriously unstable and the Minsky model is based squarely on that fact.” End of quote

In 1999 in a Op-Ed in I wrote: “The possible Big Bang that scares me the most is the one that could happen the day those genius bank regulators in Basel, playing Gods, manage to introduce a systemic error in the financial system, which will cause the collapse of our banks” 

And I have no doubt that the systemic error, the Minsky displacement that brought on the credit expansion that resulted in the financial crisis of 2007-08, was the introduction by regulators of credit risk weighted capital requirements for banks.

That facilitated a tremendous credit expansion by allowing banks to hold absolute minimum equity against assets perceived as safe. We are talking about zero percent when lending to sovereigns (Basel I 1988) to 1.6 percent when lending to the private sector rated AAA to AA (Basel II 2004).

And allowing for such minimum equity, while still lending the banking sector much implicit and explicit government support, made possible immense leverages and thereby immense risk-adjusted returns on bank equity on assets perceived as safe, while closing out the fair access to bank credit for all those perceived as “risky”, like the SMEs.

And today, soon a decade later, that “displacement” which completely distorted the allocation of bank credit to the real economy has not even been acknowledged much less corrected.

PS. Read Charles P. Kindleberger’s “Manias, Panics and Crashes” and you will not find one evidence that supports current credit risk weighted capital requirements for banks… unless perhaps they are 180 degrees the opposite: higher for what is perceived as safe and lower for what is perceived as risky.

PS. In the Wikipedia on Hyman Minsky, I do not agree with how Paul McCulley translates the Minsky's hypothesis to the subprime mortgage crisis ignoring the minimum bank capital requirements associated with the AAA rated securities backed with mortgages to the subprime sector.