Federal Responses to Market Turmoil

Source: Peter R. Orszag, Congressional Budget Office, Statement before the Committee on the Budget U.S. House of Representatives, September 24, 2008

Thus far, turmoil in the financial markets has had less impact on macroeconomic activity than may have been expected, and, indeed, economic growth was relatively strong in the second quarter of this year–in part because of the stimulus package enacted earlier this year. A modern economy like the United States’, however, depends crucially on the functioning of its financial markets to allocate capital, and history suggests that the real economy typically slows some time after a downturn in financial markets. Moreover, ominous signs about credit difficulties are accumulating. The issuance of corporate debt plummeted in the third quarter, and the short-term commercial paper market has also been hit hard. Bank lending, which has thus far remained relatively strong, will undoubtedly be severely curtailed by the difficulties that banks are facing in raising capital. Such a curtailment of credit means that businesses and individuals will find it increasingly difficult to borrow money to carry out their normal activities. In sum, the problems occurring in financial markets raise the possibility of a severe credit crunch, which could have devastating effects on the U.S. and world economies.

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