A shortage of available credit for businesses and consumers. This situation could arise when lenders are reluctant to lend because of uncertainty of defaults or are willing to lend only at high interest rates thus making it difficult for businesses and consumers to secure credit. The term became popular the financial crisis that began in 2007 when a large number of homeowners either defaulted or were expected to default on mortgages, leading to great stress on the market in which these securitized loans were traded. The ensuing constriction in liquidity caused lenders to cut back on loans resulting in a credit crunch.
Copyright © 2011 Campbell R. Harvey, Professor of Finance, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University