To understand the determinants of financial crises, previous research focused on developments closely related to financial markets. In contrast, this paper considers changes originating in the real economy as drivers of financial instability. Based on long-run historical data for advanced economies, I find that rising top income inequality and low productivity growth are robust predictors of crises – even outperforming wellknown early-warning indicators such as credit growth. Moreover, if crises are preceded by such developments, output declines more during the subsequent recession. In addition, I show that asset booms explain the relation between income inequality and financial crises in the data.
Financial crises are born out of prolonged and credit-fueled boom periods and, at times, they are initiated by relatively small shocks. Consistent with these empirical observations, this paper extends a standard macroeconomic model to include financial intermediation, long-term loans, and occasional financial crises. Within this framework, intermediaries raise their lending and leverage in good times, thereby building up financial fragility. Crises typically occur at the end of a prolonged boom, initiated by a moderate adverse shock that triggers a liquidation of existing investment, a contraction in lending, and ultimately a deep and persistent recession.
This paper studies how monetary policy jointly affects asset prices and the real economy in the United States. To this end, I develop an estimator that uses high-frequency surprises as a proxy for the structural monetary policy shocks. This is achieved by integrating the surprises into a vector autoregressive model as an exogenous variable. I show analytically that this approach identifies the true relative impulse responses. When allowing for time-varying model parameters, I find that, compared to output, the response of stock and house prices to monetary policy shocks was particularly low before the 2007-09 financial crisis.