Sequestered Capital

Sequestered capital is capital that is hidden or unseen by the market. R&D is often sequestered capitaI. New goods in production can be sequestered capital. Sequestered capital is special because it doesn’t inform price signals. In a series of papers, McClure and Thomas use the idea of sequestered capital to explain market anomalies. In this paper they look at sequestered capital and the Dutch tulipmania.

Framing tulipmania in terms of sequestered capital – capital whose quantities, usages and future yields are hidden from market participants – offers a richer and more straightforward explanation for this famous financial bubble than extant alternatives. Simply put, the underground planting of the tulip bulbs in 1636 blindfolded seventeenth-century Dutch speculators regarding the planted quantities and their development and future yields. The price boom began in mid November 1636, coinciding with the time of planting. The price collapse occurred in the first week of February 1637, coinciding with the time of bulb sprouting – signaling bulb quantities, development and future yields. Also consistent with our explanation is the initial price collapse location, in the Dutch city of Haarlem, where temperature and geography favored early sprouting and sprout visibility.

In a working paper (with Steve Horwitz) they look at sequestered capital and closed end funds. Sequestered capital is an interesting idea perhaps with many other applications.


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