Wires

UPDATE 1-S&P cuts Spain credit rating to BBB-minus, near junk

(Recasts throughout; adds comment, prices)

By Daniel Bases

NEW YORK, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Standard & Poor's on Wednesdaycut Spain's sovereign credit rating to BBB-minus, just abovejunk territory, citing a deepening economic recession that islimiting the government's policy options to arrest the slide.

The S&P downgrade comes with a negative outlook reflectingthe credit ratings agency's view that there are significantrisks to economic growth and budgetary performance, plus a lackof a clear direction in euro zone policies.

"In our view, the capacity of Spain's political institutions(both domestic and multilateral) to deal with the severechallenges posed by the current economic and financial crisis isdeclining," S&P said in a statement.

S&P's two-notch downgrade from BBB-plus brings it in linewith Moody's Investors Service's Baa3 rating. Moody's has Spainon review for a possible downgrade.

Both firms have Spain just on the cusp of junk status. FitchRatings has a BBB rating on Spain, one notch higher but alsowith a negative outlook.

A spokesman at Spain's Economy Ministry told Reuters thegovernment had no comment on the ratings action.

The country has been in recession since earlier this year,its second economic contraction in just a few years, andunemployment is stubbornly high at close to 25 percent with areturn to job creation still two years away.

Falling tax revenue and rising costs of unemploymentbenefits are confounding the government's efforts to hit a 2012deficit reduction target of 6.3 percent of gross domestic targetagreed with the European Union.

In the wake of the downgrade, the euro dropped about0.25 percent to $1.2865 in late New York trade from just under$1.29 prior to the news.

"This is weighing on the euro. A downgrade from S&P could befollowed by a downgrade from Moody's, and while S&P did notdowngrade Spain to junk, Moody's might," said Kathy Lien,managing director at BK Asset Management in New York.

"If Moody's goes to junk status, that's even moresignificant, and this adds to the pressure on Moody's to make adecision. It could lead to higher bond yields in Spain and pushthe government closer to asking for a bailout," Lien added.

In European trade earlier on Tuesday, ten-year Spanish bondyields fell 1 basis point to 5.83 percent. Thoseyields spiked above 7 percent earlier this year, but have sinceslide on a European Central Bank bond-buying plan.

(Reporting by Daniel Bases, Luciana Lopez and Steven C. Johnsonin New York; Fiona Ortiz and Carlos Ruano in Madrid; editing byDan Grebler, Gary Crosse)

((daniel.bases@thomsonreuters.com; +1-646-223-6131, ReutersMessaging: daniel.bases.reuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: SPAIN STANDARDANDPOORS/DOWNGRADE