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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's credit standing suffered a blow on Friday when Fitch Ratings became the second international agency to strip the country of its triple-A credit rating.
The move is an embarrassment for the government, which vowed to protect the rating when it took office in 2010, and has fanned a fierce debate about the speed of deficit cuts.
The following is a summary of how each rating agency views Britain's credit profile:
Moody's was the first major agency to downgrade Britain's credit rating. It lowered Britain's rating by one notch to Aa1 from Aaa in February, citing weak growth prospects and the drag from "ongoing domestic public and private sector de-leveraging".
It put a "stable" outlook on the new rating and said downgraded growth forecasts contained in the government's March budget were unlikely to alter that.
"Moody's is assessing the UK budget and expects that it will confirm the government's policy commitment to reverse the debt trajectory which, along with the country's underlying economic strength, underpins the stable outlook on the UK's Aa1 government bond rating," it said on March 20.
Fitch downgraded Britain by one notch to AA-plus on April 19, citing a weaker economic and fiscal outlook.
It said it expected general government gross debt to peak at 101 percent of GDP in 2015-16 and start declining only in 2017-18. It was previously projecting debt on this measure to peak at 97 percent and to start falling sooner.
In an interview with Reuters, Fitch said the pace of deficit cuts in Britain was not excessive, but noted that a lot of the burden of fiscal adjustment had been pushed beyond 2015, after the next national elections.
"A lot of the deficit reduction is falling into the next parliament, so it's not just the plans of this government but also what the next government plans to do," said Fitch Managing Director David Riley.
Despite the stable outlook on the rating, Riley also said that another downgrade could be in the offing if growth did not pick up as expected - Fitch is forecasting an average rate of 2.0-2.25 percent over the next 10 years - or if debt stayed high for longer.
STANDARD & POOR'S
S&P rates Britain AAA but cut the outlook on that rating to negative last December, implying a one-in-three chance of a downgrade.
On April 5, it reaffirmed its negative outlook and warned that disappointing economic growth and slow progress in repairing public finances would force it to act.
"The outlook remains negative, reflecting our view of at least a one-in-three chance that we could lower the ratings if the UK's economic and fiscal performances were to weaken beyond our current expectations," S&P said.
(Reporting by Christina Fincher; editing by Ron Askew)