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Federal Reserve Financial Stability Report

"...the framework focuses primarily on assessing vulnerabilities, with an emphasis on four broad categories and how those categories might interact to amplify stress in the financial system.

1. Valuation pressures arise when asset prices are high relative to economic fundamentals or historical norms. These developments are often driven by an increased willingness of investors to take on risk. As such, elevated valuation pressures may increase the possibility of outsized drops in asset prices (see Section 1, Asset Valuations).

2. Excessive borrowing by businesses and households exposes the borrowers to distress if their incomes decline or the assets they own fall in value. In these cases, businesses and households with high debt burdens may need to cut back spending, affecting economic activity and causing losses for investors (see Section 2, Borrowing by Businesses and Households).

3. Excessive leverage within the financial sector increases the risk that financial institutions will not have the ability to absorb losses without disruptions to their normal business operations when hit by adverse shocks. In those situations, institutions will be forced to cut back lending, sell their assets, or even shut down. Such responses can impair credit access for households and businesses, further weakening economic activity (see Section 3, Leverage in the Financial Sector).

4. Funding risks expose the financial system to the possibility that investors will rapidly withdraw their funds from a particular institution or sector, creating strains across markets or institutions. Many financial institutions raise funds from the public with a commitment to return their investors’ money on short notice, but those institutions then invest much of those funds in assets that are hard to sell quickly or have a long maturity. This liquidity and maturity transformation can create an incentive for investors to withdraw funds quickly in adverse situations. Facing such withdrawals, financial institutions may need to sell assets quickly at “fire sale” prices, thereby incurring losses and potentially becoming insolvent, as well as causing additional price declines that can create stress across markets and at other institutions (see Section 4, Funding Risks)."
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