The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. With nearly 300 released each year, working papers cover a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Emerging market financial crises are abrupt and dramatic, usually occurring after a period of high output growth, massive capital flows, and a boom in asset markets. This paper develops an equilibrium asset-pricing model with informational frictions in which vulnerability and the crisis itself are consequences of the investor optimism in the period preceding the crisis. The model features two sets of investors, domestic and foreign. Both sets of investors learn from noisy signals, which contain information relevant for asset returns and formulate expectations, or "beliefs," about the state of productivity. We show that, if preceded by a sequence of positive signals, a small, negative noise shock can trigger a sharp downward adjustment in investors' beliefs, asset prices, and consumption. The magnitude of this downward adjustment and sensitivity to negative signals increase with the level of optimism attained prior to the negative signal.