European governments are under pressure to shore up the banking sector in the face of growing worries about the industry’s capital levels, access to funding and earning power in the context of global crisis. Indeed, weakened by their bad sovereign debt holdings, several banks are scrutinized by the credit rating agencies and two of them, the French Société Générale and Crédit Agricole have recently been downgraded by Moody’s.
The eurozone’s third-largest economy is being sucked deeper into the sovereign debt crisis, since one of the major credit rating agencies downgraded yesterday its credit rating. S&P downgraded Italy to “A/A-1” from a “A+/A-1+” grade because of “Italy’s weakening economic growth prospects”, with a negative outlook, meaning further downgrades are possible. The move – S&P’s first downgrade of Italy since 2006 – places S&P’s rating on Italy three notches below that of Moody’s, the rating agency that many had expected to cut first.
The world is probably going to change after the recent downgrading by Standard&Poor’s of the US debt rating from triple A to AA+. Beyond the disturbing loss of the landmark Treasuries represented for global finance, what is important here is the awareness that even the biggest world economy is not allowed anymore to do just anything with public spending. The message is clear. The current crisis is actually giving the opportunity to put the political genie back in the bottle. It is now time to grasp this chance, but will political decision makers have the will to do it?
The Commission’s proposal, which amends Regulation 1060/2009, will now pass to the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament for consideration. If adopted, the new rules would be expected to come into force during 2011. The Commission has already compelled CRAs that would like their credit ratings to be used in the EU to apply for registration.
The Fitch rating agency on Tuesday downgraded Greece’s long-term debt ratings as well as those on four of the country’s largest banks, describing prospects for Greek public finances as negative. Greece is now exposed to the risk of losing the small amount of credibility it still has in front of its creditors. The concerns are growing about its ability to pay its huge public debt, estimated to 110% of GDP and budget deficit above 12.7% of GDP. A look at the evolution of the external debt of Greece is illustrating the concern of credit rating agencies and international financial markets: