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Leverage and beliefs: Personal experience and risk taking in margin lending
Koudijs, Peter; Voth, Joachim
Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Departament d'Economia i Empresa
What determines risk-bearing capacity and the amount of leverage in financial markets? Thispaper uses unique micro-data on collateralized lending contracts during a period of financialdistress to address this question. An investor syndicate speculating in English stocks wentbankrupt in 1772. Using hand-collected information from Dutch notarial archives, we examinechanges in lenders' behavior following exposure to potential (but not actual) losses. Before thedistress episode, financiers that lent to the ill-fated syndicate were indistinguishable from therest. Afterwards, they behaved differently: they lent with much higher haircuts. Only lendersexposed to the failed syndicate altered their behavior. The differential change is remarkable sincethe distress was public knowledge, and because none of the lenders suffered actual losses ? allfinanciers were repaid in full. Interest rates were also unaffected; the market balanced solelythrough changes in collateral requirements. Our findings are consistent with a heterogeneousbeliefs-interpretation of leverage. They also suggest that individual experience can modify thelevel of leverage in a market quickly.
Economic and Business History
Macroeconomics and International Economics
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