Global Business

S&P Sees More Sovereign Downgrades This Year

Negative rating actions on sovereign debt "are likely to continue to outnumber positive actions over the coming 12 months," S&P says.
Matthew HellerJuly 13, 2017

S&P Global is forecasting more downgrades of sovereign credit ratings this year, citing the large number of sovereigns already on “negative outlook.”

As Reuters reports, the big three rating agencies — S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch — have cut an average of more than one sovereign rating a week since the start of 2014.

In its mid-year review of the global sovereign rating market, S&P noted that 30 sovereigns were on downgrade warnings, or negative outlooks, at the start of the month, compared with just six on positive outlooks.

“This outlook distribution suggests that negative rating actions are likely to continue to outnumber positive actions over the coming 12 months,” S&P said.

Countries with negative outlooks on their ratings include Britain, which, after its vote to leave the European Union, last year became the first AAA country to be cut by two rating notches at once, and still triple-A Australia.

The International Monetary Fund has predicted the U.K.’s share of the world economy will shrink from about 5% in 1980 to just over 3% in 2020.

S&P’s negative outlook list also includes South Africa and other emerging market heavyweights such as Mexico, Turkey, and Brazil. The rating agency in April stripped South Africa of its BBB- investment-grade credit rating and assigned it a “junk” rating of BB+.

“The negative outlook … reflects our view that political risks will remain elevated this year, which could undermine economic growth and fiscal outcomes more than we currently project,” S&P said at the time.

Political uncertainty fueled by corruption scandals has also contributed to Brazil’s BB rating. The country has been on credit watch with negative implications since May.

Just over half of all sovereigns rated by S&P are now investment grade (BBB- or above). “This ratio is the lowest it has ever been,” S&P said.