Die strukturellen Ursachen der Bubble und der Krise des japanischen Finanzysystems

Schulz, Martin

Between 1986 and 1992 the stock market in Japan underwent an asset inflation that has been dubbed the bubble, resulting in a rapid value deflation since. These swift and quantitatively impressive developments have led to the popular view that misleading expansionary monetary policy in conjunction with arrogant speculators and profit-oriented city banks have been this bubble’s principal cause. This paper shows that, in fact, the opposite is true. Due to international agreements monetary policy was expansionary in 1986, but not in any exceptional manner. Rather, banks and investors have exhibited a high degree of rational behavior. Banks have been emphasizing creditworthiness when lending against collateral, and investors have been seeking profits in a burgeoning market. In the absence of any irrational action, there has instead been a change in the structure of the financial system, resulting in a flawed macro-economic outcome of the calculations of individual banks and investors. After the liberalization and opening-up of bank-dominated financial markets in the 1980’s, highly leveraged but nevertheless sound and creditworthy firms began to demand new and cheaper sources of capital, thereby by-passing the costly monitoring and screening procedures of the banks. On the other hand, formerly credit-rationed and now deregulated banks, facing new competitors entering their markets, attempted to expand their loan portfolios. In their search for new yet creditworthy borrowers and investment opportunities, they extended loans against real estate-tied collateral. Thus, the bubble mechanism was set off. However, while it is perfectly rational to concentrate on risk-free loans at a micro-economic level, a risk-reduction of overall investment is impossible at the level of the macro-economic system. Hence, the real estate bubble was bound to burst.