Fukushima et l’effondrement des produits dérivés

CAMBRIDGE – Des commentateurs financiers ont assimilé les tremblement de terre, tsunami et catastrophe nucléaire japonais au rôle des produits dérivés dans la crise financière de 2008. La ressemblance est assez claire : chacune de ces activité génère de gros bénéfices et comprend un risque très faible mais explosif. Pourtant, la similarité entre les deux types de crise s’achève là où la manière d’empêcher leur réapparition commence.

Dans le cas de la centrale nucléaire de Fukushima, une crue centennale, combinée à des défauts de conception d’ordinaire inoffensifs, a provoqué l’arrêt de la circulation d’eau de refroidissement dans les réacteurs et d’importantes fuites de radiation. En ce qui concerne les marchés financiers, un effondrement non anticipé des valeurs immobilières, combiné à des défauts de conception dans les marchés des produits dérivés et des repos, a endommagé la capacité d’institutions financières importantes à honorer leurs dettes.

Bien que les risques de base trouvent leur origine en-dehors des systèmes – un tsunami pour Fukushima, un surinvestissement dans les emprunts hypothécaires pour les institutions financières – des défauts de conception et un manque de chance ont fait en sorte que les systèmes n’ont pas pu contenir les dégâts. Aux Etats-Unis, AIG, Bear Stearns et Lehman Brothers – tous avec des investissements importants en produits dérivés et/ou repos – ont fait faillite, provoquant un gel du crédit sur les marchés pendant plusieurs longues semaines.

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