Why Does The U.S. Sneeze When Europe Gets A Cold? The debt crisis in Europe is one of the underlying causes of recent wild swings in U.S. stock markets. U.S. banks hold billions in investments in European nations' debt, so any doubts about Europe's soundness send ripples across the Atlantic.
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Why Does The U.S. Sneeze When Europe Gets A Cold?

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Why Does The U.S. Sneeze When Europe Gets A Cold?

Why Does The U.S. Sneeze When Europe Gets A Cold?

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DAVID GREENE, Host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene sitting in for Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

We asked NPR's Yuki Noguchi to find out.

YUKI NOGUCHI: Jacob Kirkegaard is a research fellow at the Peterson Institute. He says that structure has its consequences.

JACOB KIRKEGAARD: As soon as one of the national government bond markets gets into trouble, so does the majority of banks in that country.

NOGUCHI: But the damage isn't isolated. French and German banks also hold lots of Greek bonds. U.S. banks...

KIRKEGAARD: Do not own many Greek government bonds, however, they do own a sizable chunk of Spanish and Italian bonds.

NOGUCHI: Jan Randolph is director of sovereign risk for HIS Global Insight.

JAN RANDOLPH: Banks, by nature, do a lot of business with each other. They're a bit like mountaineers roped up, climbing a mountain. If one banks starts wobbling, the others start getting a bit frightened.

NOGUCHI: In the end, IHS analyst Randolph says, quantifying the U.S.'s exposure to Europe's debt crisis is just a guesstimate.

RANDOLPH: There's a certain amount of knowledge in terms of we can quantify certain areas of exposure, but the real problem is those - the unquantifiable not known. A lot of investors and a lot of banks simply don't know the interconnections of who holds what and who's connected to who.

NOGUCHI: The Peterson Institute's Jacob Kirkegaard says all the money has parked in Europe isn't even his biggest worry. A worsening of the debt crisis in Europe has other implications for the U.S.

KIRKEGAARD: I think this would really have a significant impact on what is already very fragile economic confidence among investors.

NOGUCHI: Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

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