Theories of Contagion
The Role of International Portfolio Flows
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In recent years academics and policy makers have become more and more interested in the phenomenon of contagion, a concept involving the transmission of a financial crisis from one country to one or more other countries. During the 1990s world capital markets witnessed a number of financial crises. In 1992 the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) crisis hit the European continent. Several countries in Latin America have been rocked during the 1994-95 Tequila crisis, and the Asian Flu spread through East Asian countries in 1997-98 with dramatic social implications. Later in 1998 the famous hedge fund Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) had to file for bankruptcy and the Russian debt failure shocked international capital markets and increased volatility on a global scale. The crisis spread to as far as Brazil in early 1999 and developed markets have become victims as well.
The question asked by academics and policy makers is how countries should behave in order to avoid contagion. To answer this question it is necessary to understand the different channels of contagion in greater detail and how a crisis can be transmitted from one country to another. The objective of this paper is to highlight those channels and to present a number of models and theories of contagion, which have recently been developed by academics.
In general, there are several strands of theories in the literature that try to explain the transmission of crises. During the mid and late 1990s fundamental-based contagion and spillovers became popular among researchers and policy makers. Furthermore, financial linkages have been known to contribute to contagion. In contrast, in recent years, portfolio flows of international investors moved into the focus of academics.
The advocates of fundamental-based contagion and spillovers argue that trade linkages between countries are responsible for contagion. For instance, a devaluation of a country's currency may lead to a negative change in fundamentals of its trading partners. On the other hand, contagion due to financial linkages is mainly explained by the fact that countries share the same banks and therefore have common creditors. A crisis in one country then leads to a deteriorating balance sheet of those common creditors. This in turn may force banks to withdraw money out of other countries in order to avoid further losses, a fact that leads to contagious sellouts.
The role of international portfolio flows, which is […]
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