What was the root cause of the financial crisis? Ask any economist or banker and undoubtedly they will at some point mention leverage (see e.g. here, here and here). Yet when a capital requirement based on leverage — the leverage ratio requirement — was introduced, fierce criticism followed (see e.g. here and here). Drawing on the insights from a working paper, and thinking about the main criticism — that a leverage ratio requirement could cause excessive risk-taking — this seems not to have been the case.
In a recent post, my co-author and I showed some charts suggesting that investors have been accepting less compensation for bearing credit risk. This type of risk can be very costly when it materialises, but the probability of that happening is typically very low. A similar risk is inherent in deeply out-of-the-money options. Here too, investors seem to be accepting less compensation for risk.
Earlier this year, a number of financial market participants, commentators and regulators suggested that investors have been accepting less compensation for bearing given amounts of credit risk. This short post presents two charts in support of that view.
Rational and behavioural factors can coexist in financial markets. The ‘search for yield’ (or ‘reach for yield’) observed in financial markets in recent years is a striking manifestation of the interaction of rational and behavioural factors. During an extended period of low interest rates and volatility, market participants have displayed a tendency to seek higher returns by investing in securities that carry higher credit, liquidity or duration risk. This tendency to search for yield appears to have been motivated by a mix of rational fundamental considerations, business and regulatory constraints, and behavioural biases.