It seems that U.S. financial institutions have managed to export some of their worst tranches of subprime loans to Europe. This can be seen from the size of the interventions by the central banks. On Thursday last week the European Central Bank had to inject €95 billion in liquidity into the markets (about $130 billion), whereas the U.S. FED only had to inject $24 billion. We still don't know the whole map of who sits on what bad credit, but it will be revealed eventually.
It is now obvious that the subprime mortgage mess is not "contained" in any way, and is definitely not contained within the country of origin, the U.S.A.
There has been a lot of news lately about U.S. housing and mortgages, but I expect all this to turn up in Europe too. Housing prices have been rising like a bubble here too, and many people are up to their ears in mortgages, and have no margins in their economy. Inspired by Robert Shiller's graph of inflation-adjusted U.S. home prices, I compiled one for home prices in Sweden. Unfortunately I could not easily find data before 1975, but here it is:
I've taken the FPI (Fastighetsprisindex småhus) divided by KPI (Consumer Price Index) and multiplied it by 1000 just to get some nice round numbers (figures from SCB). You can see that the prices have gone up and down in waves more or less like the U.S. prices from 1975 to 2000. Then, just like in the U.S. since 2000 they have risen above any previous tops, though the bubble is not as big as in the U.S. The situation is similar in most other western European countries - worse in some (notably UK and Spain), maybe better in others.
Now that lending standards have suddenly tightened up, I expect housing prices to fall in Europe too, and soon we will have our own version of the subprime mess. All major Swedish banks have said last week that their exposure to U.S. subprime mortgages is minimal, which I believe. What they do not mention is their exposure to the Swedish mortage market, which could quickly turn sour.
We definitely haven't seen the last fallout from the global tightening of credit. There are lots of pockets of bad credit all around the globe and in all kinds of markets, just waiting to pop up.