S&P Downgrades See Muted Market Response
Baku, January 18 (AZERTAC). Investors are again downgrading the decision-making of Standard & Poor`s, Bloomberg reports.
Less than a week after the New York-based company cut its ratings of nine countries including France, the French 10-year bond is little changed at 3.08 percent and borrowing costs fell this week at the country`s sale of 8.59 billion euros ($11 billion) in bills. Spain, whose rating was lowered by two levels to A, sold debt at half the interest rate of a month ago.
The response was the same last August, when financial markets dismissed the U.S.`s loss of AAA status by pushing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to a record low of 1.6714 percent just seven weeks later. S&P may be further behind the curve as investor sentiment improves after the European Central Bank twice reduced interest rates and offered banks unlimited cash to support the banking system.
“By the time the ratings agencies get around to doing their paperwork, everyone knows it`s going to happen, so the market moves faster and prices everything,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist and founder of High Frequency Economics Ltd. in Valhalla, New York. “We`ve seen no bump in Europe since last week, or last year in the U.S.”
Just over a month since S&P imposed ratings warnings on 15 euro nations, the company said Jan. 13 that it was downgrading nine countries after concluding recent policy steps may prove “insufficient” to contain a fiscal crisis now in its third year. Germany was left as the euro-area`s only stable AAA.
The fallout in financial markets has been muted. Spain yesterday paid an average 2.049 percent to sell 12-month debt, compared with 4.05 percent on Dec. 13. The previous day, France auctioned 1.895 billion euros of one-year notes at a yield of 0.406 percent, down from 0.454 percent on Jan. 9.
Like the U.S., France was downgraded one step to AA+ from AAA. Since September, French bonds have lost 1.56 percent, compared with a 1.73 percent gain for Germany, Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes show. It costs more to insure the debt of France than South Africa and the Philippines, according to data from CMA, and the euro is down 4.8 percent versus the dollar.
Investors anticipated S&P`s action, said David Shairp, a global strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management in London. “While it is a blow to national pride, the implications of these downgrades may be limited since these moves were carefully signaled in advance. Indeed, a downgrade to the French rating was already reflected in the spreads.”
The moves were “a case of your fears being worse than the reality,” said Steven Bell, a former U.K. Treasury official who is now chief economist at hedge fund GLC Ltd. in London. “The reality is that the European situation is improving massively,” with the ECB lending facility being “a massive game changer,” he said.
In downgrading France and the other nations, S&P cited the inability of government leaders to find a solution to reducing the region`s debt, saying “the political agreement does not supply sufficient additional resources or operational flexibility to bolster European rescue operations, or extend enough support for those euro-zone sovereigns subjected to heightened market pressures.”
“Politics are relevant with a small p,” Bell said. “One of the key points S&P have made is that you need a functioning political process to solve these problems.”