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 examines why some financial stress episodes lead to economic downturns. The paper identifies episodes of financial turmoil using a financial stress index (FSI), and proposes an analytical framework to assess the impact of financial stress-in particular banking distress-on the real economy. It concludes that financial turmoil characterized by banking distress is more likely to be associated with severe and protracted downturns than stress mainly in securities or foreign exchange markets. Economies with more arms-length financial systems appear to be particularly vulnerable to sharp contractions, due to the greater procyclicality of leverage in their banking systems.