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Comparison of the two financial crisis - 1929

and 2008/2009
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Contents

1 Introduction
2 The Crises
o

2.1 Financial Crisis of 1929

2.2 Financial Crisis of 2008/2009

3 Conclusion

4 Bibliography

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Introduction
In the world we live in today, everybody wants to make money but no one wants to be
responsible for the consequences. This means that the financial crisis that we are facing right
now is due in part, to unhealthy consumption. In other words, the financial market was making
more and more money but no one wondered where it came from and no one feared that one day
everything might crumble down. The accurate crisis has forced people to face reality and to
understand that the financial and economical markets are unstable and unpredictable and that
money doesnt produce itself. Until now, the Wall Street didnt have to worry about any
regulations or risks, resulting in non-existing fear, leading to ignorance, carelessness and greed.
This is exactly what caused the unavoidable crisis we are in today and it should be a lesson for
the future. Before the crisis, individuals had plenty of money available to buy corporations, real
estate was claimed to be a safe investment and mortgage loans were given out to everyone. The
thought that things wouldnt keep booming forever and that a house-price deprivation was
coming up never entered the peoples minds. Now, facing the meltdown, banks and other
financial institutes around the world are struggling to pull themselves out of this disaster, where
nobody is ready to commit to failures or acknowledge the fact that these are the consequences of
their previous actions. The world doesnt face this problem the first time: a similar financial
crisis already occurred in 1929. It was one of the biggest slumps in the history, which resulted
into the Great Depression. Analyzing these 2 financial crises, from 1929 and the one from today
are there similar factors, which triggered them or is not comparable at all?
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The Crises
[edit]

Financial Crisis of 1929


The international economy, which had grown intensively during the nineteenth century, came to
a sudden end with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. The war had massive direct and
indirect economic impacts. International trade, international investment and immigration flows
broke down and the international payment system was given up completely. The leading nations
Germany, France and Britain lost their status in the worlds economy and Japan and the US
became the new economic powerhouses. During the First World War the US experienced an
export boom. On the one hand from European countries as their demand for armaments,
ammunition, food and clothing skyrocketed due to the war and on the other from other nonEuropean countries, which had been previously been supplied by Europe. The favorable
geographic situation of the US was another important factor for the shift of trade, which was a
serious problem for more distant countries like Australia and New Zealand. Because of the war
shipping around the world became very difficult. So at this time the US was more or less the
worlds remaining economic powerhouse. In consequence exports increased from 2.8 billion
dollars in 1913 to 7.3 billion dollars in 1918, which is a level that was never reached again.
(Hardach, 1987, p. 255)
Moreover, production of the heavy industry boomed as the European Allies ordered gigantic
amounts of steel and other raw materials for war production. In addition when the US did enter
the war in 1917, US producers of manufactured goods faced further increasing demand from
their own government. As mentioned above before the war the US was already a major industrial
nation with an important heavy industry sector and modern production techniques. Although
manufacturers benefited more, the agricultural sector faced advantageous conditions as well.
Between 1913 and 1918 the exports of wheat and flour rose from 142 million dollars to 505
million dollars and meat exports from 68 million dollars to 668 million dollars (Hardach, 1987,
p.256).
Even though the world economy was weak in the post-war years the US went through its socalled roaring twenties. The good performance of the US economy during World War I led to a
very low unemployment level and to a rise in real income and rising standards of living.
Throughout the 1920s national income and product increased by two per cent annually, which is
close to the rate achieved during the first decade of the century. Real earnings of employees grew
about 23 per cent and the average real income increased by 30 per cent in this decade. People
had to work less with an annually decline in hours worked per capita by more than one per cent.
So one main factor for the success of the US during the 1920s was the higher productivity of
labor and capital with new techniques for mass production. Because of the mobilization of the
war many manufacturers learnt to increase production without increasing investment in new

plants. In addition to the new technologies some new organizational innovations were created.
Budgeted departments were designed to develop new products and to lessen production costs of
existing products. Firms were reorganized in specialized divisions to deal with the growing
complexity of business operations. (Brownlee, 1979, p.391)
Furthermore, there was a higher demand for skilled labor and the new restrictions of massive
immigration, which affected mainly unskilled people, led to a raise in wages of unskilled
workers. Thus the income and wealth distribution gap between skilled and unskilled workers was
closed. (Brownlee, 1979, p.386)
Consequentially the boom stimulated domestic production of consumer goods, machinery and
equipment and transportation. The booming sectors were automobiles, household equipment,
electrical goods, radio, financial and commercial services and residential and business
construction. So the share of world manufacturing production climaxed in 1929 at over 42 per
cent in comparison to 36 per cent in 1913. (Meredith & Dyster, 1999, p.85)
Regarding this impressive economic performance since 1922 some believed the US found the
secret for sustainable economic success. However, this was not the opinion of economists,
monetary or other authorities. In fact, they were expecting the slump earlier and were surprised
about the delay. As mentioned earlier the world economy was a house of cards in the 1920s.
Failures of the American policy caused the instability of the international economy. During
World War I the United States turned from a debtor to a creditor country. By January 1919 the
Allied Government owed the United States government about 9.5 billion dollars, so the US prewar net debt to foreigners of 3.7 billion had turned into a net credit of 12.5 billion dollars. The
US supplied the Allies with credits for war debts and gave loans to Germany and its allies for
reparation payments to Britain, Belgium and France. Its likely that the change of the US to a
creditor nation would have happened anyway, but not that fast. Some argue that Americans
couldnt handle the rapid change and their role in the international economy of the 1920s and
therefore would contribute to the worldwide collapse at the end of the decade. (Brownlee, 1979,
p.369)
The US could have cancelled the debts or modified them and in contrast get the repayments
through trade. The results would have been a stronger European economy with a lower and less
urgent demand for US capital and with a lower dependence on a strong economic condition of
the US. In addition the US investment in Europe would have been healthier. A second major
structural weakness was that the war and public policy led to an overexpansion of agriculture
resulting in low prices and low incomes, a heavy debt and a rising number of unproductive land.
(Brownlee, 1979, p.405)
However, the trigger for the economic slump at the end of the 1929s was the US stock market,
which also faced a boom from 1926 onwards with an increase in domestic savings, and an inflow
of short-term speculative foreign capital. Since prices were raising all sorts of people, even those
who knew little about securities and were new to the Wall Street were streaming into the market
resulting in a further increase in prices. (Lewis, 1949, p.51)
Due to the availability of credits for stock-market transactions, the low level of margin

requirements (the requirements for down payments on stock purchases) and the strong buoyancy
of stock prices investors were able to increase their number of shares without expending any
further amounts of their own funds. (Brownlee, 1979, p.412)
Knowing this highly dangerous development, monetary authorities tried to restrict this inflow of
hot money, but with no success. Eventually prices swelled to over 60 per cent between December
1927 and September 1929, and the rate of interest of short-term funds or call money doubled
during the boom and achieved 12 per cent by the end of 1928. The greatest share of this kind of
money had foreign bank agencies, corporations with large cash balances, and brokers and
individuals. Those kinds of investors brought a large degree of instability to the Wall Street and
they were able to pull out their money at any time if a downturn became apparent. (Brownlee,
p.412, 1979)
From 1927 onwards consumer markets were becoming saturated and the economic growth
started to decline gradually but the stock market kept rising and rising. The disastrous result was
the collapse of stock exchange prices in October 1929. With this the US economy changed from
a slight decline to tremendous economic depression, the Great Depression. The outcome was
intense. Unemployment increased from 3 per cent to 25 per cent, the national income rapidly
dropped by half, industrial production by one-third, foreign trade diminished by two-thirds. In
consequence consumer demand lessened as well. Weaknesses in several older US industries such
as railroads, cotton textiles, coal mining and agriculture were now brought to light because these
parts of the industry didnt grow much during the boom. So they had to face a significant decline
in demand. Because these sectors were major employers and consumer goods industries were
stagnant unemployment increased rapidly. Ironically the slump of the US economy affected
international markets rapidly but not so the boom of the 1920s. As the Wall Street crashed US
capital, which was invested abroad, was brought back home immediately and further new loans
werent accessible. This caused a financial crisis in central Europe and Latin America, because
they had been borrowing massively from the US in the 1920s. (Meredith & Dyster, 1999, p.85)
Regarding these circumstances it is not enough to analyze why the slump occurred in 1929
because they had happened before. It is more to explain why the slump was so severe and lasted
so long. The credit inflation during the 1920s wasnt greater than previous credit inflations, the
under consumption wasnt greater than it had been before, the national income and product
werent higher than in the first decade of the century; in contrary, growth rates before the war
had often been higher. So none of these factors can explain why the slump was that intense. One
reason for the intensive slump was the failing of the Federal Reserve System to prevent the crash
or at least to stimulate the recovery of the economy. The federal government would have had the
adequate power to do that. Instead it allowed the boom to continue until it was too late to stop the
disastrous consequences. The Federal Reserve limited the ability of the US banking system
drastically to meet domestic demands for currency and credit by making borrowing more
expensive and by reducing the money supply to an annually rate of ca. 31 per cent in 1932,
which is a vast drop. Furthermore, the rate of monetary contraction increased to 78 per cent
yearly in 1933. In consequence the stock market declined by one-third from August 1929 to
March 1933. (Brownlee, 1979, p.414 ff)
Another reason was that in the early parts of 1930 there was some revival and experts proclaimed

that the recession was over. However, this wasnt the case. In the second part of the year
agricultural and other raw material prices dropped rapidly, which were the sources of confidence
for recovery. So businessmen wanted to wait and see rather than making further new
investments. Primary production and the volumes of exports kept rising, which led to worldwide
dumping, import restrictions and stockpiling. During 1929 and 1930 the average price of wheat
declined by 19 per cent, cotton 27 per cent, wool 46 per cent, silk 30 per cent, rubber 42 per cent,
sugar 20 per cent, coffee 43 per cent, copper 26 per cent. In addition the index of prices of
commodities for world trade dropped by 56 per cent for raw materials, 48 per cent for foodstuffs
and 37 per cent for manufacturers. The main source for this price fall of commodities was overinvestment. The consequences of the breakdown of primary product prices were great.
Businessmen lost their confidence and became even more cautious. Moreover the price collapse
caused deflationary effects in destroying money, in hoarding of currency, and in discouraging
further investment. Primary product countries faced severe difficulties; some were driven off the
Gold Standard in 1930, forced to find other ways to decrease their international payments, forced
to take measures starting several restrictions on international trade, which harmed industrial
producers as well. (Lewis, 1949, p.55 ff.)
In conclusion the slump would not have been that immense if the federal government would
have done things differently and if primary prices would not have fallen so severely. The worst
economic slump in the history of the US, which followed after years of economic success, came
very unexpected for US citizens (not so for economists and monetary authorities as mentioned
above). Many believed that their economy had fundamental weaknesses, structural problems.
However, the economic reality wasnt that bad, although it had its weaknesses. By using the right
economic instruments and policies things would have been different. So the Great Depression
forced an increase of the search for a successful management of a modern, industrial economy.
Shown below is a graph of the Dow Jones of the years between 1920-1936, which displays how
drastically the stock went up and then just slumped down. It hit 386 in September of 1929 and
dropped to 40.56 in July 1932, which is 89%. (Walker, Jeff, 1997-2005)

Source: http://www.lowrisk.com/29crash.htm

Financial Crisis of 2008/2009

Source: Professor Fraugere, 2008


In the first instance, it is important to acknowledge that also todays crisis was not something that
occurred from one day to the other, but that it has been the consequences of different actions and
mistakes that have been made over the past years in the financial markets in the United States, as
well as worldwide. It began that mortgage credits were given to every person in the U.S., also the
ones who receive the minimum wage in order to buy or build real estate. In this process all
participating financial institutions failed verifying the creditworthiness. During that time there
was a huge real estate boom in the United States, so that credits, which dropped out, were still
lucrative. Here the house was sold for a higher price and because of that it came to a higher
return than the actual credit.
In addition the interest level was very low and the guaranteed mortgage loans underlay a variable
interest rate. With the smallest change of the interest rate many debitors couldnt pay anymore,
and because of that many credits dropped out. The resulting risks and also the already existing
ones were securitized into bonds and bought from many banks, including German banks. Since
the real estate boom stopped and the debitors werent able to sell their houses anymore, all the
bonds lost their value. Now there is an oversupply in houses, which can be bought for extreme
low prices. To fight this issue the Fed is setting in a zero interest policy. Because of this its
easier for investors to get the needed money. It starts with the fact that for many months, the US
government has failed to understand that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taking huge risks
that could lead the world into a financial breakdown. (Professor Fraugere, 2008)
Fannie Mae stands for The Federal National Mortgage Corporation and was created in 1938 and
is since 1968 a private shareholder-owned company. They strengthen the U.S. housing and
mortgage markets and supply it with liquidity. (N.N. a, 2008)

Freddy Mac stands for The Federal Home Mortgage Corporation and their business is to
combine the residential mortgage markets with the Wall Street dealer and investors. The
company does mortgage purchases, credit guarantees and portfolio investment activities. (N.N. b,
2009)
Instead of setting up regulations for these organizations to regulate their actions, they kept on
promoting subprime mortgage loans, even if the loans should have not been made in the first
place, presenting to be the heart of todays crisis. Furthermore the free market as well as the
greed of many CEOs can be held responsible for the accurate situation and many subprime
borrowers had to find out that their homes were worth less then their mortgages, due to the house
price depreciation. The crisis found its starting point with the bankruptcy of Lehmans Brothers,
which occurred in September 2008. It is a key example of how using borrowed money can end
up in a complete disaster. Lehman Brothers wanted to compensate for its merely small sized
capital base and took large risks, such as borrowing sums that ended up to be thirty five times the
size of its capital and heavily plunged into real estate ventures that cratered. The company relied
on investments in derivatives in order to produce profits and to hold up with competitors such as
Goldman Sachs. Even the borrowing programs that have been set up for Lehman as well as other
financial institutions after the forced sale of Bear Stearnes to JP Morgan in March this year,
couldnt prevent the downfall of the organization, as the market moved against it. (Professor
Fraugere, 2008)
In addition A.I.G., one of the pioneers of credit-default swaps, had to experience a downgrade of
their credit and problems in its investment mortgage securities, which resulted in the necessity to
post huge sums of collateral, which the company obviously didnt have. The consequence was
that the Fed extended $ 85 billion in credit, preventing the firm from breaking down. As A.I.G.s
size and global reach in writing millions of auto, home and other insurance policies that were
considered to be safe and profitable just a few months ago was enormous, a bankruptcy would
have caused a huge chaos and therefore the government decided to bailout the organization,
taking over 80% ownership stake in the firm in return. (New York Times, 2008)
After the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the forced sale of Merrill Lynch and the A.I.G. crisis
there has been a general panic facing the actual financial markets. (New York Times, 2008)
Even if the government's extraordinary rescue of the group ($ 85bn emergency Fed loan) gave
the US stocks a little bit of comfort, the anxiety and fear of the investors was still omnipresent.
The panic in world credit markets has reached historic intensity and the measurement of financial
related stress hit record peaks across the globe. Retailers and investors pulled out their money in
consequence to the panic of further market collapses. Furthermore, the two largest independent
US investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, fell 14 % and 24 %, resulting in a
new thread of being able to finance themselves. The US financial market was standing upside
down and the stock market crash is 3 % higher then the Black Monday of 1987. (New York
Times, 2008)
Not only US investment banks but also HBOS, a leading UK mortgage lender, agreed to the half
of the original bidding price of 6 billion pounds takeover by Lloyds after it share price went

down. (Duncan, Hugo, 2008)


The financial sector fell on a daily basis and the market sunk in what analyst call one of the most
extraordinary series of developments in financial history. Not only Banks such as Citigroup or
Genworth financial but also General Electric, Delta, Northwest, Nortel and many other firms in
different sectors presented a major drop in their stock prices. The crisis is affecting millions of
American as well as people around the world presenting crucial financial and economical
consequences. A series of government interventions were in the process as investors and
politicians realized that Europe is also facing a banking crisis of its own. The financial crisis also
had a heavy effect on the German Real estate bank Hypo Real Estate, which in got another 10
billions Euro February 2009, that is a total of 52 billion Euro from state guarantees. (N.N. c,
2009)
Stock indexes from Paris to Frankfurt plunged as much as 9 percent on October 6th 2008 (N.N.
d, 2009), due to the fear of a spreading financial crisis among European banks a series of
government interventions, pursuing previous weeks sudden bailouts and guarantees, only
seemed to fan the flames of anxiety. Investors and politicians realized that Europe is underlying
not only a financial but also an economical crisis of its own. It is obvious a result to the Wall
Street disaster and bad US subprime debt, however this is not the only reason. Since the credit
crunch first hit in 2007, lending in the Old World has gotten tenser and tenser and now the lack
of capital flow is affecting banks globally, threatening businesses with credit starvation. Bob
McDowall, European research director at financial-services consultancy Tower Group in London
states that "Governments and regulators are trying to demonstrate firm leadership and show
confidence, but banks don't trust each other". (N.N. d, 2007)
And that is in my opinion exactly the problem that banks and financial institutes are facing
worldwide: everyone wishes to get out of this crisis as fast and best as possible, but the lack of
mutual trust just makes the whole situation even worse. Instead of working on joined solutions,
financial institutions are skeptical towards their partners and competitors and the loss of trust
doesnt seem to decrease anytime soon. The financial crisis also has shown its effect on the
economy. The economy as a whole in the Euro zone has contracted and no real signs of
improvement are presented. In other words, as a result to the financial crisis, the Euro zone
economy has slide into a recession. After Germany, the biggest economy in the European Union
has announced that it was in recession on November 14th, the fifteen states that use the euro
reported a shrink in the third quarter. The poor performance of the German economy was the
main factor, stating a contraction of 0.5 percent in relation to the previous quarter. Furthermore
due to a sharp global downturn, the demand for oil has declined, contributing to pushing inflation
in the European zone down to zero. (N.N. e, 2008)
These facts demonstrate the devastating consequences of the financial crisis not only in the
States, but worldwide. It has become not only a matter that concerns financial markets, but the
global economy. The crisis also presents to have long-term consequences for the relation of the
United States with the rest of the world, in terms of financially, economically and politically. We
could already see that there was a severe constraint against a revival of the Bush administration
after Barack Obama was elected president, seeking for a change in America. However, the crisis
will have serious consequences of the international power and status of the United States and it

will have to pay the price for its misjudgments: "The last eight years have seen US political and
economic leadership reach a nadir in the ratio of cognitive capabilities to destructive capabilities.
There is a great unwillingness to recognize this limitation, particularly within American culture.
The Bush years have all the appearance of a Greek tragedy. Greed, hubris, and short-sighted
pursuit of political advantage have been placed in the pressure cooker and the heat turned on
high. The result is not that it would boil over but that it would explode. The economic empire is
unraveling quietly but at a faster and faster clip. This process will eventually knock out the
underpinnings of American military power and bring about a major reduction in overseas
entanglements. This is to say that just as the deleveraging in financial assets has turned into an
uncontrollable process, so, too, may the unwinding of the US strategic-military
networks."(Edsall Thomas B., 2008)
This displays us how disastrous the consequences of the crisis are on a financial and economical
level, affecting not only the United States, but economies worldwide. Insolvent banks and large
lenders seek for governmental help in order to survive as well as banks in Germany, Britain and
many other countries across Europe had to be rescued by capital injections, partial or outright
nationalization or even takeovers. Despite hundreds of billions being pumped into the banking
system by central banks around the world to restore liquidity and confidence, no real solution is
presented in order to regulate the crisis. The unwillingness of banks to lend each other money is
omnipresent and the different nations have not yet agreed on a common rescue plan for the crisis.
Back in October the United States seek for help from Europe and wanted the ok to involve
foreign banks in order to sustain the $ 700 billion loan to cover for the bad debts of the Wall
Street, which got rejected by Germany and other countries. Angela Merkel criticized the US
government and stated that Bush's administrations have failed to handle their financial market,
because they wouldnt admit to stricter rules. (Gauthie- Villars, David and Markus Walker, 2008)
This shows us that European countries are heavily criticizing the old US government, making it
responsible for dragging their countries into the financial crisis. As Europe already has stricter
rules concerning their financial markets, such as the Basel II agreement, where a set of
international standards are presented in order to tighten capital requirements for credit
institutions. While almost all of the EU, including Germany has signed up for it, Washington on
the other hand still hasnt even set a date for working these principles into the American law. Not
only Germany but also the other members of the G7 central banks do not plan on following up
with the US rescue plan. Europes reaction to the bailout proposal shows how problematic it is to
come up with suggestions in order to solve the crisis. As stated above, US and Europe do not
agree on a common solution yet. While Germany calls for more transparency and a better set of
rules. (Spiegel Staff, 2008)
France proposed a significantly stronger role for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the
U.S still wishes to remain the dominant force on the capital market, opinions of the different
nations remain divided. The nations all have different approaches and visions for the solution of
the crisis: British and Swedes consider the specific for individual markets too detailed and rules
to control the bank activities too strict. The Czech finance minister refers to the crisis as a
revolution and not evolution of the financial system. Germans seek for more tidy rules and
clearness of the markets, whereas France favors stronger interventions (Spiegel Staff, 2008).

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Conclusion
After the financial crisis of 1929, the Enron meltdown and the present financial and economical
crisis, it is vital for governments to seek for a solution that will prevent such as disaster to
reoccur. New regulations must be implemented and nations must work closely together in order
to improve the global market situation. It is important to understand that a solution must involve
an aim for long-term goals and that coordination and cooperation should be the key terms
leading the propositions. Its hard to compare todays financial crisis to the one of 1929. Today
the triggers and economy is different. Moreover, the globalization plays an important role of the
difference between today and 80 years ago. Today all world economies are connected in one way
or the other to each other and it has a definitely bigger effect on the entire world when one
country has financial or economic problems. There are surely similarities in reactions and, but
within 80 years the world changed too much and it is more interconnected. Furthermore today
there are rescue packages and state guarantees, which can support institutions like in financial
trouble, which didnt exist back in 1929. However today, even through the support from the
states and central banks, its not certain what the outcome will be. A situation like this with this
support was never existing before, and for this reason its difficult to determine what the longterm effect will look like, the world will only see in the future if the reactions were the right one.
The only thing in my opinion, which can be compared, is that in 1929 and today as also shown in
the graph below, there was an extraordinary boom before the crises, which then led to a complete
slump of the economy. (Blodget, Henry, 2009)

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/henry-blodget-great-crash-of-2008-now-worse-thangreat-crash-of-1929-2009-3

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