Mike Shedlock

With the US AAA rating gone, how long can France hold its AAA rating? I suspect not long. So where will that leave the ECB attempting to put a circle around Italy? Will Germany have to backstop all of Europe?

Those are the new key questions and notice how the key question list keeps growing larger in size and significance.

France Vulnerable to Rating Cuts

Bloomberg reports AAA France May Be Vulnerable After U.S. Cut

The decision by Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the U.S. credit rating leaves France as the AAA country most likely to lose its top grade, some investors and economists say.

France is more expensive to insure against default than lower-rated governments including Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Mexico, Czech Republic, the State of Texas and the U.S.

“France is not, in my view, a AAA country,” said Paul Donovan, London-based deputy head of global economics at UBS AG. “France can’t print its own money, a critical distinction from the U.S. It is not treated as AAA by the markets.”

“If Italy and Spain have difficulties, are we sure that, for instance, France can still be considered a ‘core’ country?” said Marco Valli, chief euro-area economist at UniCredit Global ‘Core’ is becoming a narrower group of countries.”

While France’s debt of 84.7 percent of gross domestic product is less than Italy’s 120.3 percent, as a percentage of economic output it has risen twice as fast as Italy’s since 2007. French government debt totaled 1.59 trillion euros ($2.3 trillion) at the end of 2010, according to the European Union; Italy's was about 1.8 trillion euros. France has had a larger budget deficit than Italy every year since 2006. S&P rates Italy A+, four levels below France.

“If French authorities do not follow through with their reform of the pension system, make additional changes to the social-security system and consolidate the current budgetary position in the face of rising spending pressure on health care and pensions, Standard & Poor’s will unlikely maintain its AAA rating,” S&P said in a June 10 report.

Mike Shedlock

Mike Shedlock is a registered investment advisor representative for Sitka Pacific Capital Management.
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