The way analysts at Citigroup see things, Canada could be one of the few countries left with a triple-A credit rating over the next few years, with ratings agencies likely not done with their downgrades after taking a wide swipe at Europe last week.
Michael Saunders and Mike Schofield believe that over the next six months, Moody’s Investors Service will put France and Austria on “negative outlook”; Standard & Poor’s took away their top-notch credit ratings last Friday, but left Germany's untouched. Meanwhile, Moody’s will likely chop ratings Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece. And speaking of Greece, S&P could lower its credit rating to either “selective default” or outright default.
That’s near-term stuff. Over the next two- to three years, the analysts see a range of credit downgrades by at least one rating agency on the United States, Japan, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal. As for Germany and the U.K., expect them to be put on “negative outlook.”
“For Germany, ratings pressure comes from the slowing economy and the potential burdens of supporting domestic banks and other EMU countries,” the analysts said in a note. “For the U.K., the main issue is the prospect that extended economic weakness will limit the pace of fiscal improvement.”
So which ratings are safe? Smaller European countries, like Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden seem to have fairly solid triple-A credit ratings. But that doesn’t leave a big group.
“Our projection implies that in a few years, there may well be very few pure AAAs (ie top rated with stable outlook and ratings watch) – just Canada, some smaller European economies, and the Antipodean countries,” the said.