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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1255362
 
 

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The Panic of 2007


Gary B. Gorton


Yale School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

August 25, 2008

Yale ICF Working Paper No. 08-24

Abstract:     
How did problems with subprime mortgages result in a systemic crisis, a panic? The ongoing Panic of 2007 is due to a loss of information about the location and size of risks of loss due to default on a number of interlinked securities, special purpose vehicles, and derivatives, all related to subprime mortgages. Subprime mortgages are a financial innovation designed to provide home ownership opportunities to riskier borrowers. Addressing their risk required a particular design feature, linked to house price appreciation. Subprime mortgages were then financed via securitization, which in turn has a unique design reflecting the subprime mortgage design. Subprime securitization tranches were often sold to CDOs, which were, in turn, often purchased by market value off-balance sheet vehicles. Additional subprime risk was created (though not on net) with derivatives. When the housing price bubble burst, this chain of securities, derivatives, and off-balance sheet vehicles could not be penetrated by most investors to determine the location and size of the risks. The introduction of the ABX indices, synthetics related to portfolios of subprime bonds, in 2006 created common knowledge about the effects of these risks by providing centralized prices and a mechanism for shorting. I describe the relevant securities, derivatives, and vehicles and provide some very simple, stylized, examples to show: (1) how asymmetric information between the sell-side and the buy-side was created via complexity; (2) how the chain of interlinked securities was sensitive to house prices; (3) how the risk was spread in an opaque way; and (4) how the ABX indices allowed information to be aggregated and revealed. I argue that these details are at the heart of the answer to the question of the origin of the Panic of 2007.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 92

Keywords: Panic, Capital Markets

JEL Classification: G2

working papers series


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Date posted: August 26, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Gorton, Gary B., The Panic of 2007 (August 25, 2008). Yale ICF Working Paper No. 08-24. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1255362

Contact Information

Gary B. Gorton (Contact Author)
Yale School of Management ( email )
135 Prospect Street
P.O. Box 208200
New Haven, CT 06520-8200
United States
203 432-8931 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://mba.yale.edu/faculty/profiles/gorton.shtml
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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