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How to learn more about credit booms and financial crises

Reuters/Jason Lee
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  • Gwynn Guilford
By Gwynn Guilford


If you want to learn more about the arguments and data I explored in the State of Play, a solid starting point is the Bank for International Settlements website. To begin your data spelunking, your cave entrance is the BIS statistics page, which offers several interfaces for finding and organizing the data, as well as a list of the latest data releases. I like the Statistics Warehouse best; it lets you customize your data search and tweak the variables with dropdown menus as you go along. Plus, you can save the link to previous queries, making for easier updating of charts. Data series you can choose from include credit (volumes and share of GDP), global liquidity (by major currency), debt service ratios, foreign exchange rates, central bank interest rates, consumer price inflation, and home prices (among other things). Most include data for a few-dozen countries; some series go as far back as 1952.

Some of the data are more self-explanatory than others. One of the more confusing datasets is that for cross-border bank lending (which is useful for trying to get a handle how much foreign currency-denominated debt a country’s residents have borrowed). Fortunately, the BIS researchers sometimes write detailed explanations of how to understand and interpret the data—like this one on Turkey’s foreign lenders.

That’s great if you know what you’re looking for. Another fun way to spiff up your chart collection is to rummage through past annual and quarterly reports. See a graph you like? Click the download button in its lower right-hand corner and you get whisked away to a page of Excel file downloads for every graph and table in the entire report!

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