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Italy, Spain credit rating downgraded

Fitch cuts rating for five eurozone nations over concerns about European debt crisis.

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Fitch Ratings downgraded five eurozone nations including Italy, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia and Cyprus on January 27, 2012. (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Fitch Ratings downgraded the sovereign debt ratings of five European countries including Italy and Spain on Friday, CNN reported.

Italy, the third largest eurozone economy, had its rating cut two levels to A- from A+. Fitch cut Spain's ratings from A from AA-. Belgium, Slovenia and Cyprus also took hits.

"The intensification of the eurozone crisis in the latter half of last year...highlighted the financing risks faced by eurozone sovereign governments in the absence of a credible financial firewall against contagion and self-fulfilling liquidity crises," said Fitch's statement.

The news comes on the same day Spain announced the country's unemployment rate jumped from 21.5 percent to 22.8 percent in the fourth quarter.

More from GlobalPost: Spain announces budget reform as jobless rate soars above 5 million (VIDEO)

Slovenia's rating was cut to A, while Cyprus and Belgium were each cut one level: Belgium to AA and Cyprus to BBB-, the lowest possible level before hitting junk bond status.

Ireland did not fair well either. Fitch maintained its weak BBB+ rating and said the country remains on negative outlook.

Bloomberg reported the downgrades were flagged a month ago by Fitch and come as Greece tries to avoid default.

European leaders gather in Brussels on Jan. 30 to discuss Greece's current financial crisis.

More from GlobalPost: European officials blame euro crisis on the US

On Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned European leaders in Davos, Switzerland “the only way Europe’s going to be successful in holding this together... is to build a stronger firewall. That’s going to require a bigger commitment of resources.”

Just two weeks ago Standard & Poor's downgraded the credit ratings of nine euro zone countries, stripping France and Austria of their AAA status and pushing Portugal into junk territory.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120127/italy-spain-credit-rating-downgraded