Housing Bubbles: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure


By Kevin Fletcher and Peter Kunzel

The main features of boom-bust cycles in housing markets are by now all too familiar.

During booms, conditions such as lax lending standards and low interest rates help drive up house prices and with them mortgage debt.

When the bust arrives, over-indebted households find themselves underwater on their mortgages— owing more than their homes are worth.

Feeling the pinch of reduced wealth and access to credit, households, in turn, rein in consumption. At the same time, lower house prices cause investment in new houses to tumble.

Together, these forces significantly depress output and increase unemployment. Non-performing loans increase, and banks respond by tightening credit and lending standards, further depressing house prices and adding to the vicious cycle.

Continue reading

Emerging Europe—Lessons from the Boom-Bust Cycle


By Ajai Chopra

Almost unnoticed, amid the difficulties in western Europe, the other half of the continent has begun to recover from the deepest slump in its post-transition period. The emerging economies in central and eastern Europe will grow by 3¾ percent this year and next—a relief after the 6 percent decline in 2009.

Why was the crisis so severe—and how do we avoid a repeat? We consider just that question in our fall 2010 Regional Economic Outlook: Europe. While the crisis was triggered by external shocks, it is clear that domestic imbalances and policies also played a key role. Continue reading

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