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Title: (Un)promising beginnings : Bagehot in the land of the waltz : financial crises and lending of last resort in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1868-1914)
Author: Rieder, Kilian
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 1380
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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This dissertation analyzes the emergence of the Austro-Hungarian Bank (OeUB) as a modern lender of last resort (LLR) between 1868 and 1914. In order to evaluate policy responses to specific periods of financial distress, an in-depth knowledge of the context and dynamics at hand is indispensable. Chapter I sets the groundwork for this dissertation. It shows that bank failures during the Austro-Hungarian crisis of 1873 followed mainly from the break-down of a large repo market on the Viennese stock exchange. Credit institutions granted repo loans against securities that turned into highly illiquid and depreciated collateral. Banks that were forced to sell repossessed collateral in response to heavy funding withdrawals had to write-off substantial portions of their repo portfolios and thus incurred heavy losses. This chapter reinterprets the Austro-Hungarian crisis of 1873 as a historical "run on repo". It is the first study to examine a historical repo market crisis using microdata. I use semi-parametric survival analysis as well as stratification techniques new to the literature on bank distress to identify the causes of bank failures. Bank failures in 1873 did not spring from a pure liquidity problem, nor did they derive from a simple solvency shock. The complex roots of bank distress in 1873 posed difficult questions for policy-makers who needed to decide whether and how to intervene. Although central banks may be first-best candidates for the role of a LLR, they can also face constraints which obviate an elastic supply of liquidity during crises. Some of these constraints may be ideational, institutional or technical. Others are driven by market characteristics: quantity rationing can be the result of asymmetric information problems in financial markets. In Chapter II, I study a historical experiment implemented to overcome the specter of a credit rationing LLR during the Austro-Hungarian crisis of 1873. I explore bank-level information on treatment by a LLR mechanism designed as a public-private partnership between the central bank and market players. Drawing on inverse probability weighted regression adjustment (IPWRA) to tease out the causal effect of liquidity support, I show that this unconventional LLR was effective in mitigating bank distress: it worked as a remedy for the under-provision of a good particularly desirable in times of crises central bank liquidity. No matter how successful it is in calming financial distress and independently of the concrete form it takes, the LLR always comes at a cost. Moral hazard is a central issue in the literature on last resort lending. In Chapter III, I provide a new explanation for how central banks dealt with moral hazard historically. I focus on one specific component of central banks' risk frameworks: credit limits for discount window customers. I argue that credit limits as operationalized by the Austro-Hungarian Bank (OeUB) after 1878 constituted the backbone of an early form of microprudential regulation that was designed to check moral hazard in normal times. Credit limits empowered the Austro-Hungarian Bank to enforce minimum liquidity and capital standards for its counterparties at the discount window. Rather than contradicting the tenet of free lending in times of distress, credit limits functioned as "contingent rules": enforced in normal times, limits were increased or lifted during liquidity crises perceived as exogenous. Moreover, even during crises, the Bank did not simply relax limits for all credit institutions: it differentiated between banks depending on their fundamentals prior to the crisis. Chapter III provides the first economic interpretation and empirical analysis of the credit limit frameworks employed by central banks in the past.
Supervisor: Esteves, Rui Sponsor: Oxford-Swire scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Economic history ; Macroeconomics ; moral hazard ; repos ; Bagehot ; banking crisis ; financial crisis ; central bank ; repurchase agreements ; lender of last resort