Financial Crises and Bank Liquidity Creation
Allen N. Berger and Christa H.S. Bouwman, October 2008

Abstract: Financial crises and bank liquidity creation are often connected. We examine this connection from two perspectives. First, we examine the aggregate liquidity creation of banks before, during, and after five major financial crises in the U.S. from 1984:Q1 to 2008:Q1. We uncover numerous interesting patterns, such as a significant build-up or drop-off of “abnormal” liquidity creation before each crisis, where “abnormal” is defined relative to a time trend and seasonal factors. Banking and market-related crises differ in that banking crises were preceded by abnormal positive liquidity creation, while market-related crises were generally preceded by abnormal negative liquidity creation. Bank liquidity creation has both decreased and increased during crises, likely both exacerbating and ameliorating the effects of crises. Off-balance sheet guarantees such as loan commitments moved more than on-balance sheet assets such as mortgages and business lending during banking crises.
Second, we examine the effect of pre-crisis bank capital ratios on the competitive positions and profitability of individual banks during and after each crisis. The evidence suggests that high capital served large banks well around banking crises – they improved their liquidity creation market share and profitability during these crises and were able to hold on to their improved performance afterwards. In addition, high-capital listed banks enjoyed significantly higher abnormal stock returns than low-capital listed banks during banking crises. These benefits did not hold or held to a lesser degree around market-related crises and in normal times. In contrast, high capital ratios appear to have helped small banks improve their liquidity creation market share during banking crises, market-related crises, and normal times alike, and the gains in market share were sustained afterwards. Their profitability improved during two crises and subsequent to virtually every crisis. Similar results were observed during normal times for small banks.

Keywords: Financial Crises, Liquidity Creation, and Banking.

JEL classifications: G28, and G21.

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