NYSE Euronext is working to register a U.S. trust bank, regulated by the Federal Reserve, to function as a clearinghouse for credit derivatives trades in the U.S., according to the exchange’s chief executive.

Duncan Niederauer said Thursday that not owning a U.S.-based clearing operation puts NYSE Euronext at a disadvantage as it tries to catch up with U.S. derivatives exchanges CME Group and IntercontinentalExchange, which are readying their own clearing platforms for credit-default swaps in the U.S.

“We are behind the eight ball in the U.S., because we don’t own our own clearinghouse in the U.S.,” said Niederauer, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Financial Services Conference.

Registering a U.S. trust bank will see NYSE following a path blazed by ICE, which last week received approval from the New York State Banking Department for ICE US Trust, the Atlanta based derivatives exchange’s entry in the race to clear CDS trades. Approval from New York banking officials is a necessary first step before receiving approval from the New York Federal Reserve.

“At the end of the day, the Fed wants to be able to put its thumb on [CDS clearing], and the Fed feels like it can’t put its thumb on a London clearinghouse,” said Niederauer.

In Europe, NYSE is the front-runner in the credit derivatives business, as it plans to introduce CDSs on its BClear platform in 10 days. Niederauer said the product would see a “soft launch” for the remainder of 2008 and begin operation “in earnest” in 2009. But in the U.S., Niederauer was skeptical about the ability of CME and ICE to get up to speed on CDSs in such a short amount of time, after announcing their intentions to get into the business this fall.

Noting that NYSE Euronext had been developing its European CDS offering since March 2008, Niederauer said, “It’s interesting to me that these companies showed up at the first Fed meeting in mid-October and said they can be up and running in six weeks. They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Beyond developing technology to handle the swaps, Niederauer said that regulatory approval is the biggest hurdle for clearing CDSs in the U.S. “It doesn’t happen in a few weeks,” he said.

While ICE awaits approval from the New York Federal Reserve, CME is seeking approval from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Both CME and ICE CDS platforms also require an exemption from the Securities and Exchange Commission.