New signs of Asia's burgeoning role in international finance came in the past two weeks, when the Japanese bank Nomura snapped up the Asian and European operations of Lehman Brothers, which went bankrupt last month. And when Hong Kong overtook New York for the first time in the value of IPOs launched, that was evidence of a shift.
US financiers have been complaining for several years that Wall Street's dominance has been eroded by regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley antifraud legislation that complicates listing on the New York stock exchanges. And most international derivatives trading is now done in London.
But the sort of business that the current crisis has destroyed on Wall Street will not necessarily move to Asia, nor to any other financial center.
Wall Street's appetite for credit risk – which fueled the freewheeling boom years until it brought the whole edifice of credit down – will not travel, says Brad Setser, an economics fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "Asia won't become Wall Street because it won't have the same risk-taking culture. That Wall Street culture will disappear and the ecosystem of risk-taking, highly leveraged institutions that populated Wall Street will not migrate."