SOURCE: Weiss Ratings

Weiss Ratings

December 09, 2011 08:47 ET

Weiss Ratings: Eurozone Crisis Prompts Debt Downgrades

Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden Downgraded

JUPITER, FL--(Marketwire - Dec 9, 2011) - Weiss Ratings takes the lead again today in downgrading the debt of five European countries -- Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, and Sweden -- underscoring the impact of the Eurozone's crisis on the world economy.

Weiss' sovereign debt rating changes are as follows:

Weiss Sovereign Debt Ratings
Country New Rating Prior Rating
Hungary C- C
Ireland E+ D-
Portugal D D+
Russia C+ B
Sweden B B+
Weiss Ratings scale: A = Excellent, B = Good, C = Fair, D = Weak, E = Very Weak.
Plus sign = top of grade range; minus sign = bottom of grade range.

Ireland faces difficult years ahead. With additional austerity budgets and mandated contractions facing the banking sector, Ireland is especially vulnerable to a general European recession. The economy has shown some indications that initial austerity measures will place the country on a stronger footing but at the cost of mass unemployment and emigration. And, in an attempt to counter these problems and maintain a competitive advantage for foreign investment, the government has stubbornly refused to give up its low corporate tax rate.

Portugal's economy continues to deteriorate and is likely to face a significant contraction in 2012, perhaps as much as 3%. Substantial European assistance has been promised but is contingent on privatization of national industries, such as airlines, power and the national energy grid.

Hungary is suffering from the relative strength of the Swiss franc (CHF) and the euro (EUR) compared to the forint (HUF). The forint has dropped 17% against the Swiss franc since April and 9.8% against the euro in the last three months. Notably, substantial borrowing in foreign currencies coupled with the currency weakness created difficulties in debt repayment that may lead to economic contraction.

Russia faces major challenges. It is increasingly vulnerable to the financial crisis in Europe, causing markets to question its economic stability in light of risk factors and recent history of default. This, coupled with dependence on high energy, as well as other export commodity prices and tightening liquidity indicate that the macroeconomic picture is not strong.

Despite Sweden's overall economic strength and fiscal prudence, it too is feeling the effect of the Eurozone crisis. The property market is showing signs of stress, with prices trending down in many areas and extended time to sell. The government has recognized the banking industry's exposure to the financial markets and is committed to strengthening the industry by implementing higher Tier 1 capital requirements. Declining debt levels and the attractiveness of Swedish bonds are expected to help maintain economic stability.

Weiss Ratings senior financial analyst Gavin Magor commented: "With a potential new recession on the horizon, some Eurozone countries are particularly exposed. While a tighter fiscal union proposed by Germany and France intends to maintain a core of stability around the two countries, it would take significant time to implement if an agreement is even reached. The European financial crisis is as large as ever and will continue to cause difficulties, as it develops, well into 2013."

Weiss Sovereign Debt Ratings cover 50 countries. For more information on the Weiss Ratings approach, refer to our white paper, "Introducing the Weiss Sovereign Debt Ratings."

About Weiss Ratings
Weiss Ratings, the nation's leading independent provider of bank, credit union and insurance company financial strength ratings and sovereign debt ratings, accepts no payments for its ratings from rated institutions. It also distributes independent investment ratings on the shares of thousands of publicly traded companies, mutual funds, closed-end funds and ETFs.

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