How the crash of safe assets fueled the financial crisis

Traders on the floor of the NYSE on December 1, 2008.
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Looking back now, the financial crisis and the deep recession that followed still appear mysterious.

How was it that an uptick in mortgage defaults led to a situation where 12 of the 13 most important financial institutions in the U.S. were near failure, where millions of American were thrown out of their jobs, and from which the economy still apparently bears deep scars?

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