The Great Debate UK
Some people assumed that after the debacle over the 2008 mortgage-backed security crisis in the U.S., the credit rating agencies would be discredited. However, here we are three years later and the focus is still on the same rating agencies, waiting with bated breath to see whether they move the ratings of some of the world’s most important economies.
Within the last six months rating agencies have played a big part in shaping the direction of financial markets. First, there was Standard & Poor’s downgrading of the U.S. at the start of August, which caused a wave of risk aversion and turmoil on financial markets. Europe has also been the focus of concern.
Italy has seen its credit rating slashed to the lowest A rating you can have, while new kid on the block rating agency Egan Jones has gone one step further and on Monday cut Italy’s rating to BB from BB+. Belgium has also been cut and rumours are spreading that France isn’t going to keep its coveted triple A status for much longer.
Far from drift into the background, the focus has been on the diminishing number of countries rated triple A in the western world and what this means for borrowing costs. France has also been under the rating agencies’ microscope. It is at risk of losing its triple A credit rating due to its high public sector debt level combined with a sizeable deficit, also Paris has been slow to take steps to try and bring public sector finances under control. A false statement that France had been downgraded by Standard & Poor’s in October caused French bond yields to surge and it also enraged the French government who threatened to take steps to ban the rating agencies from commenting on France again.