Financial crises are very difficult to predict. While each episode of financial instability seems to have unique aspects, two scenarios are common in such events. First, major crises usually involve financial institutions or markets that are either very large or play some significant role in the financial system. Second, the origin of most financial crises (except those caused by natural disasters, war and other non-economic events) can be traced back to failures of due diligence or market discipline by a significant group of market participants.

The financial system has a large number of players who buy and sell financial instruments. The Federal Reserve (Fed) classifies players into sectors by providing information about the financial markets that it publishes quarterly.

Another way to look at the economic system is to consider how much each sector contributes to gross domestic product (GDP). Considering the GDP components for the United States for 2008, non-financial businesses were found to be the largest contributor to GDP.

Financial sectors facilitate the flow of funds into the economy. Hence this sector does not generate as much GDP as non-financial businesses. Financial sectors are important in the financing and investment activities of non-financial businesses.

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