Moody's Warns May Strip France, UK, Austria's Aaa Rating
Rating agency Moody's warned on Monday it may cut the triple-A ratings of France, the United Kingdom and Austria, while it downgraded the ratings of Italy, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta.
The rating agency downgraded the rating outlooks of France, the UK and Austria to negative due to "a number of specific credit pressures that would exacerbate the susceptibility of these sovereigns' balance sheets."
Britain's finance minister reacted to the announcement by saying the country must keep its promise to slash its large budget deficit.
"This is proof that, in the current global situation, Britain cannot waver from dealing with its debts," finance minister George Osborne said. "This is a reality check for anyone who thinks Britain can duck confronting its debts."
The government in Britain has come under increasing pressure to soften its austerity measures to give a stalling economy room to breathe.
Germany's top-tier rating was described as "appropriate" by Moody's and triple-A status was also unchanged for Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
At the same time, it affirmed its triple-A rating on the euro zone's bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Fund .
Moody's cut by one notch the ratings of Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta, while downgrading Spain by two notches.
The rating outlook of the nine countries affected by Moody's action on Monday was set to negative, "given the continuing uncertainty over financing conditions over the next few quarters and its corresponding impact on creditworthiness," the agency said in a statement.
Moody's announcement came a day after Greece's parliament approved a deep new round of budget cuts in the hope of securing new bailout funds and avoiding a chaotic default in March.
The move follows a similar one by Standard & Poor's last month, when France and Austria lost their triple-A status, while Italy, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia were downgraded. S&P also cut the EFSF by one notch.
U.S. equity markets did not immediately react to Moody's move, with S&P 500 futures down two points in light trading.