Intermediary Leverage Cycles and Financial Stability
Revised: February 2015
JEL classification: E02, E32, G00, G28
We present a theory of financial intermediary leverage cycles within a dynamic model of the macroeconomy. Intermediaries face risk-based funding constraints that give rise to procyclical leverage and a procyclical share of intermediated credit. The pricing of risk varies as a function of intermediary leverage, and asset return exposures to intermediary leverage shocks earn a positive risk premium. Relative to an economy with constant leverage, financial intermediaries generate higher consumption growth and lower consumption volatility in normal times, at the cost of endogenous systemic financial risk. The severity of systemic crisis depends on two state variables: intermediaries’ leverage and net worth. Regulations that tighten funding constraints affect the systemic risk-return tradeoff by lowering the likelihood of systemic crises at the cost of higher pricing of risk.