The financial crisis of 2007–08, also known as the Global Financial Crisis and 2008 financial crisis, is considered by many economists to have been the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It threatened the collapse of large financial institutions, which was prevented by the bailout of banks by national governments, but stock markets still dropped worldwide. In many areas, the housing market also suffered, resulting in evictions, foreclosures and prolonged unemployment. The crisis played a significant role in the failure of key businesses, declines in consumer wealth estimated in trillions of U.S. dollars, and a downturn in economic activity leading to the 2008–2012 global recession and contributing to the European sovereign-debt crisis. The active phase of the crisis, which manifested as a liquidity crisis, can be dated from August 9, 2007, when BNP Paribas terminated withdrawals from three hedge funds citing “a complete evaporation of liquidity”.
The bursting of the U.S. (United States) housing bubble, which peaked in 2004, caused the values of securities tied to U.S. real estate pricing to plummet, damaging financial institutions globally. The financial crisis was triggered by a complex interplay of policies that encouraged home ownership, providing easier access to loans for (lending) borrowers, overvaluation of bundled subprime mortgages based on the theory that housing prices would continue to escalate, questionable trading practices on behalf of both buyers and sellers, compensation structures that prioritize short-term deal flow over long-term value creation, and a lack of adequate capital holdings from banks and insurance companies to back the financial commitments they were making. Questions regarding bank solvency, declines in credit availability and damaged investor confidence had an impact on global stock markets, where securities suffered large losses during 2008 and early 2009. Economies worldwide slowed during this period, as credit tightened and international trade declined. Governments and central banks responded with unprecedented fiscal stimulus, monetary policy expansion and institutional bailouts. In the U.S., Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Many causes for the financial crisis have been suggested, with varying weight assigned by experts. The U.S. Senate’s Levin–Coburn Report concluded that the crisis was the result of “high risk, complex financial products; undisclosed conflicts of interest; the failure of regulators, the credit rating agencies, and the market itself to rein in the excesses of Wall Street.” The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded that the financial crisis was avoidable and was caused by “widespread failures in financial regulation and supervision,” “dramatic failures of corporate governance and risk management at many systemically important financial institutions,” “a combination of excessive borrowing, risky investments, and lack of transparency” by financial institutions, ill preparation and inconsistent action by government that “added to the uncertainty and panic,” a “systemic breakdown in accountability and ethics,” “collapsing mortgage-lending standards and the mortgage securitization pipeline,” deregulation of over-the-counter derivatives, especially credit default swaps, and “the failures of credit rating agencies” to correctly price risk. The 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act effectively removed the separation between investment banks and depository banks in the United States. Critics argued that credit rating agencies and investors failed to accurately price the risk involved with mortgage-related financial products, and that governments did not adjust their regulatory practices to address 21st-century financial markets. Research into the causes of the financial crisis has also focused on the role of interest rate spreads.
In the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis palliative fiscal and monetary policies were adopted to lessen the shock to the economy. In July 2010, the Dodd–Frank regulatory reforms were enacted in the U.S. to lessen the chance of a recurrence.