Global stock markets and commodity prices have been on a downward trajectory over the past month. Why? Markets have been spooked by mixed economic signals coming from the US and more hawkish sentiment from central banks (interestingly central bankers have rowed back on this following the turbulence - click here). They have also been concerned by the state of the Eurozone, with even Germany entering the economic doldrums. The Ebola scare has even been blamed for the turbulence of the past few weeks. However, the greatest fear in financial markets is of a slowdown in China. A slowdown in China means a fall in demand for commodities (hence the fall in commodity prices) and a fall in demand for other goods and services (even university education!). Could China's debt-fuelled construction and economic boom be coming to an end?
As an undergraduate, I was taught about the failure of Herstatt Bank in 1974 and Herstatt risk. This bank was only the 35th largest bank in Germany at the time so why would anyone be interested in studying its failure? Herstatt failed because of its involvement in risky foreign exchange business. When it closed its doors on 26 June 1974, counterparty banks (mainly in New York) had not received dollars due to them because of time-zone differences - this is known as settlement risk. The cross-jurisdictional implications of its failure resulted in the Bank for International Settlements setting up the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and Herstatt's failure was a key reason for the establishment of real-time gross settlements systems, which ensures that payments between two banks are executed in real time. The Bank of England's Ben Norman has an interesting post on Herstatt over at the Bank's new blog ( Bank Underground ). As well as giving an excellent overview of