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European debt crisis may permeate U.S. credit markets

Nov 23, 2011 Walt Wojoiechowski

Fears of the European debt crisis making its way overseas have thus far been mostly the product of speculation. Experts maintain that a resolution to the region's fiscal dilemmas can cushion U.S. investors and finance institutions from blow-back. This week, New York-based ratings firm Fitch Ratings released a report that takes an even harder stance on the subject, asserting that the entire U.S. banking industry could be at risk if the eurozone crisis is not resolved in a timely and orderly manner. "Fitch's current outlook for the industry is stable, reflecting improved fundamentals at most banks combined with ratings lower than at pre-crisis levels," the agency reported Thursday. "However, risks of a negative shock are rising and could alter this outlook." Such an incident could indirectly impact the consumer credit market as well, as banks and lenders are forced to rein in risk and lending policies in response to deleveraging. However, Fitch added, "direct exposures appear manageable in the context of banks' capital positions and diverse earnings streams." Consumer credit risk management tactics can also be employed to hedge against excessive losses.