NEW YORK - As compared to one year ago, participants were singing a different tune this spring at the tenth annual Latin American Conference hosted by Fitch Ratings, held at the Ritz Carlton in Battery Park last week. The main topics this year - what the market has learned from the Argentine crisis and what lies ahead south of the border - is a far cry from last year's hyped-up buzz about devaluation insurance.

While there was a growing concern for Argentina during the spring of 2001, the country had only just begun trotting down its long and winding tragic path. At that point, Fitch had just downgraded Argentina's sovereign rating to B+' from BB-', Moody's Investors Service had only changed the sovereign rating to B2' from B1', and Standard & Poor's had downgraded the rating to B+' from BB-'. Now that the country is in sovereign default, market participants at this year's conference felt that it was important to discuss the lessons learned from Argentina's tumultuous economic decline.

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