The latest commentary by the highly respected Bank of International Settlements:
Overview: global financial crisis spurs unprecedented policy actions Financial stability concerns took centre stage once again over the period between end-August and end-November. In the wake of the mid-September failure of Lehman Brothers, global financial markets seized up and entered a new and deeper state of crisis. As money market funds and other investors were forced to write off their Lehman-related investments, counterparty concerns mounted in the context of large-scale redemption-driven asset sales. The ensuing sell-off affected all but the safest assets and left key parts of the global financial system dysfunctional. With credit and money markets essentially frozen and equity prices plummeting, banks and other financial firms saw their access to funding eroded and their capital base shrink, owing to accumulating mark to market losses. Credit spreads surged to record levels, equity prices saw historic declines and volatilities soared across markets, indicating extreme financial market stress. Government bond yields declined in very volatile conditions, as recession concerns and safe haven flows increasingly outweighed the impact of anticipated increases in fiscal deficits. At the same time, yield curves steepened from the front end, reflecting repeated downward adjustments in policy rates.
Emerging market assets also experienced broad-based price declines, as depressed levels of risk appetite and associated pressures in the industrialised world spilled over into emerging financial markets. With confidence in the continued viability of key parts of the international banking system collapsing, the authorities in several countries embarked on an unprecedented wave of policy initiatives to arrest the plunge in asset prices and contain systemic risks. Market developments over the period under review went through four more or less distinct stages. Stage one, which led into the Lehman bankruptcy in mid-September, was marked by the takeover of two major US housing finance agencies by the authorities in the United States. Stage two encompassed the immediate implications of the Lehman bankruptcy and the wide-spread crisis of confidence it triggered. Stage three, starting in late September, was characterised by fast-paced and increasingly broad policy actions, as responses to the crisis evolved from case by case reactions to a more international, system-wide approach. In the fourth and final stage, from mid-October, pricing patterns were increasingly dominated by recession fears, while markets continued to struggle with the uncertainties surrounding the large number of newly announced policy initiatives.Lehman Brothers bankruptcy triggers confidence crisis In this environment of tension over the continued viability of Lehman Brothers, financial market developments entered a completely new phase. The spotlight was now being turned on the ability of key financial institutions to maintain solvency in the face of accumulating losses. The trigger for this new and intensified stage of the credit crisis came on Monday 15 September. That day, following failed attempts by the US authorities to broker a takeover by another financial institution over the weekend, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc filed for bankruptcy protection, one of the biggest credit events in history.
p/s photos: Janet Hsieh Yi Fen