The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
This paper empirically analyzes the contribution of microeconomic and macroeconomic factors in five recent episodes of banking system problems in the U.S. Southwest (1986–92), Northeast (1991–92), and California (1992–93); Mexico (1994–95); and Colombia (1982–87). The paper finds that a low capital equity and reserve coverage of problem loans ratio is a leading indicator of bank distress, signaling a high likelihood of near-term failure. Distress is shown to be a function of the same fundamental macro-micro sources of risk that determine bank failures. Focusing on distress has the advantage that the fragility of the banking system can be assessed before a crisis actually occurs.