Volviendo a la normalidad

BRUSELAS – Una crisis financiera estalla cuando un gran volumen de activos en el sistema financiero de repente parece riesgoso y los inversores quieren desprenderse de sus tenencias. Estos activos se vuelven "tóxicos" -no son simplemente riesgosos, conllevan un riesgo que no se puede cuantificar-. Los activos tóxicos no se comercializan según un cálculo normal de riesgo-ganancia. Dado que su riesgo no se puede calcular, sus propietarios sólo quieren venderlos -a veces a cualquier precio. 

En 2007-2008, fue esto lo que sucedió en el caso de una clase de títulos basados en hipotecas residenciales en Estados Unidos (RMBS por su sigla en inglés, o títulos respaldados por hipotecas residenciales). Durante la fase de auge, estos títulos se vendían como libres de riesgo, en base a la suposición de que los precios de las viviendas en Estados Unidos no podían caer, ya que esto nunca había sucedido antes en tiempos de paz.

Sin embargo, esta suposición se desmoronó cuando en 2007 comenzó una caída generalizada de los precios de los bienes raíces y las tasas de pérdida sobre hipotecas de repente aumentaron. Como resultado, se determinó que los RMBS eran mucho más riesgosos de lo que se había pensado. En un principio, no había muchos datos para recalcular su valor de manera racional, porque el episodio (una caída en tiempos de paz de los precios de las viviendas en Estados Unidos) no tenía precedentes. Es más, los bancos y otras instituciones financieras, que tenían grandes volúmenes de RMBS, estaban mal preparados para medir el riesgo, y en algunos casos habrían quebrado si se hubieran visto obligados a vender sus tenencias a los precios de liquidación que prevalecían en el pico de la crisis.

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