In Berlin, the government arranged a week ago for major banks to lend 35 billion euros to Hypo, but that fell apart when the banks concluded that more money would be needed. Late Sunday, the government said a 50 billion euro package had been arranged, with the government and other banks participating.
The credit crisis began in the United States, a fact that has led European politicians to claim superiority for their country’s financial systems, in contrast to what Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s prime minister, called the “speculative capitalism” of the United States. On Saturday, Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, said the crisis “has come from America,” and Mr. Berlusconi bemoaned the lack of business ethics that had been exposed by the crisis.
Many of the European banks’ problems have stemmed from bad loans in Europe, and Fortis got into trouble in part by borrowing money to make a major acquisition. But activities in the United States have played a role. Bankers said Sunday that the additional need for funds at Hypo came from newly discovered guarantees it had issued to back American municipal bonds that it had sold to investors.
The credit market worries came on top of heightening concerns about economic growth in Europe and the United States. Many economists think there are recessions in both areas, and one also appears to have started in Japan, where the Nikkei newspaper reported Monday that a poll of corporate executives found that 94 percent thought the country’s economy was deteriorating.
“Unless there is a material easing of credit conditions,” said Bob Elliott of Bridgewater Associates, an American money management firm, after the retail sales figures were announced, “it is unlikely that demand will turn around soon.”
Almost unnoticed as the United States Congress approved a $700 billion bailout for banks last week, it also agreed to guarantee $25 billion in loans for America’s troubled automakers. European automakers said Sunday they would seek similar aid from the European Commission.
Henry M. Paulson Jr., the United States Treasury secretary, hoped that approval of the American bailout, which will involve buying securities from banks at more than their current market value, would free up credit by making cash available for banks to lend and by reassuring participants in the credit markets.
But that did not happen last week. Instead, credit grew more expensive and harder to get as investors became more skittish about buying commercial paper, essentially short-term loans to companies. Rates on such loans rose so fast that some feared the market could essentially close, leaving it to already-stressed banks to provide short-term corporate loans.
Altria , the parent company of the cigarette maker Philip Morris, said lenders wanted it to delay its planned $10.3 billion acquisition of UST, another tobacco maker, until 2009, but promised it would complete the deal.
Europe’s need to scramble is in part the legacy of a decision to establish the euro, which 15 countries now use, but not follow up with a parallel system of cross-border regulation and oversight of private banks.
“First we had economic integration, then we had monetary integration,” said Sylvester Eijffinger, a member of the monetary expert panel advising the European parliament. “But we never developed the parallel political and regulatory integration that would allow us to face a crisis like the one we are facing today,” he added.
In Brussels, Daniel Gros, director of the Center for European Policy Studies, agreed. “Maybe they will be shocked into thinking more strategically instead of running behind events,” he said. “The later you come, the higher the bill.”
While the European Central Bank has power over interest rates and broader monetary policy, it was never granted parallel oversight of private banks, leaving that task to dozens of regulators across the Continent.
This patchwork system includes national central banks in each of the euro-zone’s 15 members and they still retain broad powers within their own borders, further complicating any regional approach to problem-solving.
The European economic landscape today bears little resemblance to the 1990s, when the groundwork for the euro was laid. Back then, Mr. Pisani-Ferry recalled, few banks in Europe had cross-border operations on a significant scale.
A wave of mergers over the last decade created giants like HSBC and Deutsche Bank, which straddle continents and have major American exposure.
“The European banking landscape was transformed fairly recently,” Mr. Pisani-Ferry said. “When the euro was first introduced, the question of cross-border regulation didn’t really arise.”
Optimists say one potential long-term benefit from the current turmoil is that it often takes a crisis to propel European integration forward.
“Progress in Europe is usually the result of a crisis,” Mr. Eijffinger said. “This could be one of those rare moments in E.U. history.”