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U.S. may be facing a credit downgrade

Stephen Beard Dec 15, 2010
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U.S. may be facing a credit downgrade

Stephen Beard Dec 15, 2010
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

JEREMY HOBSON: Word today from the rating agency Moody’s that Spain’s Credit Score may get a downgrade. Yesterday Belgium got the same warning from Moody’s rival Standard & Poors. Investors, yeah, they’re worried about Europe’s stability again.

Marketplace’s Stephen Beard is with us live from the European Desk in London. Good morning, Stephen.

STEPHEN BEARD: Hello Jeremy.

HOBSON: So why do these credit scores matter so much?

BEARD: Very generally, because a government’s credit rating is pretty critical. A government with its take raising and other powers is usually the most dependable financial entity within a particular country. Here’s Jan Randolph of IHS Global Insight.

JAN RANDOLPH: You ask yourself, what is the most creditworthy institution in the country. Most people would say, yes its the government. So, when the sovereign rating moves up or down, it takes everything else with it.

HOBSON: And Stephen, beyond just investor psychology, what’s at stake here?

BEARD: Usually a lot of money. I mean investors are watching very closely the precise rating that’s allocated to a particular country. It can be anything from the top, triple A down to triple C, which is close to default. In the middle of this spectrum you get triple B minus, which is the point at which investment grade bonds become much riskier. They become speculative or junk grade and that’s as Jan Randolph says, can have very practical consequences.

RANDOLPH: A lot of investors — pension funds, institution investors — they have a policy which says we only invest in investment grad. And any downgrade into junk means automatic sell-off.

We’re talking about all of this Jeremy in the context of Spain and Belgium, but if a leading British fund manager is to be believed, a downgrade could be heading your way. He says that because of all its debt, the U.S. could eventually loose it’s triple A rating.

HOBSON: Oh, great Stephen. That’s for leaving us with that one. Marketplace’s Stephen Beard in London, thank you.

BEARD: OK Jeremy.

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