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Europe’s glass jaw: How did a US crisis hit Europe hardest?

Leaving to one side the continuing debate about the causes of the credit crunch and how best to cure the dislocation in money markets, the relative inadequacies of European capital markets, especially in fixed income, are undisputed.

When the going gets tough everyone heads for the hills. It took three months for a bank to brave the floating-rate note market. As Euromoney went to press a small securitization was finally being marketed – but still not from one of the real market leaders.

Whether in secondary trading or the primary markets, Europe was left far behind by the US. Liquidity drained from trading desks and the new issue market. This must be somewhat galling for the continent’s bankers and senior regulatory officials. The remarkable pace of financial innovation this past decade, which has largely been led by Europe, has masked significant weaknesses that have now come fully to light.

Europe’s capital markets have appeared more sophisticated than North America’s, with many advances have emerged on the eastern side of the Atlantic. Take interest rate or currency swaps. What about the whole credit derivative phenomenon and the birth of single-tranche CDO technology? But it will not go unrecognized that the US dollar market stayed open in the midst of real financial market distress. But the reasons why some European borrowers have not turned to the US in the past have not changed.

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