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 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: