Facts and Fictions in The Securities Industry 1st edition

V. The Crisis in Historical Context

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V. The Crisis in Historical Context

Housing and financial crises often precede, or follow the disintegration of empires. The dissolution of the Habsburg and the British empires, as well as the implosion of the USSR were all marked by the eruption and then unwinding of imbalances in various asset, banking, and financial markets.

The collapse of Communism in Europe and Asia led to the emergence of a new middle class in these territories. Flushed with enhanced earnings and access to bank credits, its members unleashed a wave of unbridled consumption (mainly of imported goods); and with a rising mountain of savings, they scoured the globe for assets to invest their capital in: from football clubs to stocks and bonds.

The savings glut and the lopsided expansion of international trade led to severe asymmetries in capital flows and to the distortion of price signals. These, in turn, encouraged leveraged speculation and arbitrage and attempts to diversify away investment risks. The former resulted in extreme volatility and the latter in opaqueness and the breakdown of trust among market players and agents.

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