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Rating cut puts Spain back on crisis radar

Rating cut puts Spain back on crisis radar
On Friday October 14, 2011, 6:18 am EDT

MADRID (Reuters) – Standard & Poor’s cut Spain’s credit rating on Friday, sending the euro briefly lower and underlining the challenges facing Europe’s major powers as they meet G20 counterparts over the euro-zone debt crisis.

S&P, whose move mirrored that by fellow ratings agency Fitch last week, cited high unemployment, tightening credit and high private-sector debt among reasons for cutting the nation’s long-term rating to AA- from AA.

Spanish 10-year government bond yields rose slightly in response, although they remained more than 60 basis points lower than those of Italy and, at 5.24 percent, some distance from the 7 percent level widely regarded as unsustainable.

“Despite signs of resilience in economic performance during 2011, we see heightened risks to Spain’s growth prospects due to high unemployment, tighter financial conditions, the still high level of private sector debt, and the likely economic slowdown in Spain’s main trading partners,” S&P said.

It also noted the “incomplete state” of labor market reform and the likelihood of further asset deterioration for Spain’s banks, and downgraded its forecast for Spanish economic growth in 2012 to about 1 percent, from the 1.5 percent it forecast in February.

High yields on Spanish government bonds point to concerns that it could be the next euro zone economy to require a Greece-style bailout, and despite an unpopular austerity program, doubts remain that Spain will meet its deficit target of 6 percent of GDP this year

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