Systemic Breakdowns: Still Possible

I should mention that although systemic breakdowns are rare these days, they’re not impossible, and I’m thankful to Nouriel Roubini for explaining over the course of 3,461 words today just how a global financial meltdown might happen. If you’re in the mood for bearishness, you know where to go:

A contagious and cascading spiral of credit disintermediation, credit contraction, sharp fall in asset prices and sharp widening in credit spreads will then be transmitted to most parts of the financial system. This massive credit crunch will make the economic contraction more severe and lead to further financial losses. Total losses in the financial system will add up to more than $1 trillion and the economic recession will become deeper, more protracted and severe.

A near global economic recession will ensue as the financial and credit losses and the credit crunch spread around the world. Panic, fire sales, cascading fall in asset prices will exacerbate the financial and real economic distress as a number of large and systemically important financial institutions go bankrupt. A 1987 style stock market crash could occur leading to further panic and severe financial and economic distress. Monetary and fiscal easing will not be able to prevent a systemic financial meltdown as credit and insolvency problems trump illiquidity problems. The lack of trust in counterparties – driven by the opacity and lack of transparency in financial markets, and uncertainty about the size of the losses and who is holding the toxic waste securities – will add to the impotence of monetary policy and lead to massive hoarding of liquidity that will exacerbate the liquidity and credit crunch.

In this meltdown scenario financial US and global financial markets will experience their most severe crisis in the last quarter of a century.

Still, a quarter of a century, that’s, what, 1983? Which wasn’t so bad, was it?

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