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Signaling systemic risk

Systemic financial crises arise when vulnerable financial systems meet adverse shocks. A systemic risk indicator tracks the vulnerability rather than the shocks (which are the subject of ‘stress indicators’). A systemic risk indicator is by nature slow-moving and should signal elevated probability of financial system crises long before they manifest. A recent ECB paper proposed a practical approach to building domestic systemic risk indicators across countries. For each relevant categories of financial vulnerability, one representative measure is chosen on the basis of its early warning qualities. The measures are then normalized and aggregated linearly. In the past, aggregate systemic risk indicators would have shown vulnerability years ahead of crises. They would also have indicated the depth of ensuing economic downturns.