Can a Lender of Last Resort Stabilize Financial Markets? Lessons from the Founding of the Fed

43 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2008 Last revised: 30 May 2021

See all articles by Asaf Bernstein

Asaf Bernstein

University of Colorado at Boulder; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Eric N. Hughson

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance

Marc Weidenmier

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: October 2008

Abstract

We use the founding of the Federal Reserve as a historical experiment to provide some insight into whether a lender of last resort can stabilize financial markets. Following the Panic of 1907, Congress passed two measures that established a lender of last resort in the United States: (1) the Aldrich-Vreeland Act of 1908 which authorized certain banks to issue emergency currency during a financial crisis and (2) the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 which established a central bank. We employ a new identification strategy to isolate the effects of the introduction of a lender of last resort from other macroeconomic shocks. We compare the standard deviation of stock returns and short-term interest rates over time across the months of September and October, the two months of the year when financial markets were most vulnerable to a crash because of financial stringency from the harvest season, with the rest of the year during the period 1870-1925. Stock volatility in the post-1907 period (June 1908-1925) was more than 40 percent lower in the months of September and October compared to the period (1870- May 1908). We also find that the volatility of the call loan rate declined nearly 70 percent in September and October following the monetary regime change.

Suggested Citation

Bernstein, Asaf and Hughson, Eric N. and Weidenmier, Marc D., Can a Lender of Last Resort Stabilize Financial Markets? Lessons from the Founding of the Fed (October 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w14422, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1288421

Asaf Bernstein

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

Campus Box 419
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Eric N. Hughson

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance ( email )

500 E. Ninth St.
Claremont, CA 91711-6420
United States
909-607-3664 (Phone)

Marc D. Weidenmier (Contact Author)

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance ( email )

500 E. Ninth St.
Claremont, CA 91711-6420
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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