Standard & Poor's is set to strip France of its AAA credit rating for the first time, Agence France-Presse has reported, citing an unidentified government official, according to Bloomberg and Le Monde.
The euro dropped sharply to a fresh 16-month low on Friday and global markets retreated amid mounting speculation that the US-based ratings agency was set to deliver on its threat to downgrade a number of euro zone countries due to concerns over Europe’s efforts at effectively tackling the 17-member currency bloc’s two-year debt crisis.
A senior euro zone source is reported to have told Reuters that the US-based ratings agency will downgrade the credit ratings of several euro zone countries later today, although not those of Germany or the Netherlands.
Downgrading the euro zone’s AAA-rated economies like France could have serious implications for the capacity of Europe’s rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), to which France contributes heavily, to provide bailouts to struggling countries, according to the Associated Press.
A downgrade would be a heavy blow to French President Nicolas Sarkzoy, who is standing for re-election in April.
The euro tumbled against the dollar, to under $1.27, as the news spread across European financial markets.
Last month Standard & Poor’s warned that it was putting 15 euro zone economies on notice for a downgrade. Since then the European Central Bank (ECB) has pumped cheap three-year loans into the banking system to try to avert a credit crunch.
ECB President Mario Draghi told a news conference yesterday that the euro zone was showing “tentative” signs of stabilization, and said that last month’s flood of cheap money was supporting confidence in the bloc’s economy.
Standard & Poor’s declined to comment on the speculation.
According to the Guardian, tension around the financial markets was exacerbated by news that negotiations between the government of Greece and private holders of Greek debt have been suspended until next week.
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