The current financial instability became widely apparent in the credit markets in August 2007. Although initially thought to be limited to sub-prime mortgages, increasing defaults on prime mortgages caused losses that rippled through the financial system. The effects have been particularly severe because U.S. mortgage-backed securities (MBS) had previously been viewed as low risk investments. Beginning in early 2008, multiple failures in large financial institutions prompted case-by-case government interventions to address these failures. Dissatisfaction with these ad hoc responses was cited by the Treasury in proposing a broader response focusing on government purchase of trouble mortgage-related assets, hoping to stem uncertainty and fear by removing these assets from the financial system. In early October 2008, Congress passed, and the President signed, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, creating the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). This book briefly introduces aspects of the current financial instability. Following this, it outlines the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) legislation and the steps that Treasury has taken to implement EESA.
Also examined with a more in-depth analysis of the current financial instability are the potential causes of the financial instability, some sources of the current instability, and how financial instability may spill over into the broader economy.