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Will Asian financial centers overtake Wall Street?

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That view is not universally shared. Markets of the size and sophistication that New York and London can boast "build up over time and there is a huge network and agglomeration effect," says Edwin Truman, a former assistant US Treasury secretary.

"Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo are more important than they were 20 years ago," he adds. "But will they reach London and New York's dominance in another 20 years? I suspect not."

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.

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