Or why a relatively tiny place like Dubai could be big trouble for the American banking system.

And while UK banks, such as Standard Chartered, HSBC (HBC), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Barclays (BCS) are much more exposed to Dubai World, with a total of more than $30 billion in default risk according to J.P. Morgan’s note, U.S. banks have extensive dealings with UK institutions. Those include trading and guaranteeing debt, which could translate into losses for U.S. banks.

There’s also U.S. banks’ interactions with their German counterparts. Dubai has loaned a lot of money to Eastern European nations, as has Germany. Any losses from defaults there could expose U.S. banks to some risk.

Finally, there’s the impact of already reeling commercial real estate markets worldwide.

“Dubai may have to unload some very prestigious properties at distressed prices, and this will drive the price of all commercial real estate lower,” said Bove. “That would clearly be a problem for American banks.”

Even though most American banks (other than Citibank) do not have huge direct exposure, the ripple effect looks to be a lot more dangerous at the moment. We are already on the economic ropes in this country right now. Another blow could be a real problem.

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