January 16, 2012

Triple-A Eurozone Rescue Plan Depends on Germany and Others: S&P

More participation from triple-A rated nations required to keep top rating

After downgrading most of the eurozone on Friday, Standard & Poor's said that the continued triple-A rating for the European Financial Stability Facility, the region's rescue mechanism, depended on more participation from Germany and other nations that retained their top credit rating.

Reuters reported that once two of its guarantors, France and Austria, lost their own triple-A ratings, the EFSF's status was jeopardized. Should the EFSF be downgraded as well, that would mean higher borrowing costs for the mechanism, which would in turn reduce its effectiveness to troubled member nations.

John Chambers, the chairman of S&P's sovereign rating committee, said in the report, "If you have a greater commitment from the other countries, then the EFSF could retain its triple-A rating." He added, "If you've lost two of the six triple-A guarantors, either they need to increase the backing from the four remaining triple-A guarantors or they need to raise some cash buffers."

Chambers also said that recent steps taken by the European Central Bank to boost liquidity to banks in the region had promoted a substantial monetary easing in the euro zone, which was "good news" for the ratings. He added that some of the banks might have used the funds, loaned at a low interest rate, to invest in government bonds.

On the other hand, Fitch Ratings was less confident of the success of existing ECB measures, saying that the euro zone debt crisis will not be solved without more active engagement of the ECB.

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