The Economy

Rating Agencies Cut Outlook on China’s Credit

'Economic and financial risks to the Chinese government's creditworthiness are gradually increasing,' says S&P.
Katie Kuehner-HebertMarch 31, 2016

Standard & Poor’s has followed Moody’s Investors Service and cut its outlook for the Chinese government’s credit rating, expressing concern that the country will rely too heavily on credit growth to boost its stalling economy.

While the ratings agency on Thursday maintained its “double-A minus” rating on China’s sovereign debt, it lowered the outlook to negative from stable. However, S&P could downgrade the debt within the next year if the Chinese government increases credit at a significantly faster rate than economic growth, in an attempt to maintain growth at or above 6.5%.

China is trying to transition from an export-driven economy to one that is led by domestic consumer demand, and to aid in that transition, has increased foreign access to its bond market. However, S&P said the transition is proceeding “more slowly than we had expected.”

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“Economic and financial risks to the Chinese government’s creditworthiness are gradually increasing,” the ratings agency said. Government and corporate debt metrics could likely worsen, which “could weaken the Chinese economy’s resilience to shock.”

Some investors were not moved by the downgrades, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s not something which changes the equation dramatically to my mind,” Binay Chandgothia, a portfolio manager at Multi-Asset Advisors in Hong Kong, a unit of Principal Global Investors, told WSJ. “It’s just a confirmation of what’s known about China: The fact that growth is slowing down, and total debt in the system is increasing.”

Moody’s earlier this month also lowered its outlook on China’s debt to negative. Fitch Ratings in November rated China as “A-plus” with a stable outlook.