Europe News

S&P's Moritz Kraemer: Europe not out of the woods

Europe rebalance is gradual process: S&P

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) said on Wednesday that more countries were likely to be downgraded than upgraded in 2014, with Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) most at risk once more, despite improvements this year.

At a webcast detailing its global outlook for next year, S&P said it had "a mild downside bias in the euro zone", although there should be fewer ratings moves in the region in 2014 compared with this year.

Moritz Kraemer, chief sovereign ratings officer at S&P, told CNBC that Europe still had a lot of rebalancing to do, and that its financial crisis was gradually improving, rather than over.

"Let's remember what this is all about," Kraemer said. "When the euro was introduced...the countries on the so-called periphery had been running up large and growing current account surpluses, which they financed with foreign debt. Now, this process stopped when the financial crisis struck and now those economies are saddled with this very high level of debt."

(Read more: Can you still trust rating agencies?)

In order to stabilize, these countries need to generate surpluses with the rest of the world, rather than deficits, said Kraemer.

"Now obviously you cannot turn it like a switch over night, so it's very much a process rather than a one-off decision," he said. "And what we believe is that we have gone some of the way, but much more needs to be done."

Just last Friday, S&P lowered its credit rating for the Netherlands to AA plus from AAA, while lifting its outlook for the struggling economies of Spain and Cyprus.

(Read more: S&P cuts Netherlands rating, raises Spain outlook )

In the webcast, S&P said it was surprised by the strength of the U.K. recovery in 2013, and that it was about to undertake analysis that could alter its outlook on the U.K. economy.

S&P is the only one of the three major rating agencies (Moody's Investors Service; Fitch Ratings and S&P) to still rate Britain AAA, albeit with a negative outlook.

"What we will do before we take a decision, we will monitor closely the Autumn Statement (to be announced on Thursday) and see what the meaning is," Kraemer said. "We will discuss it internally; we will discuss it with the government and then we will pronounce what our conclusions are. But for the time being the rating remains on a negative outlook, but it's still AAA."

(Read more: UK economy goes from 'zero to hero' but don't expect giveaway)

Kraemer spoke to CNBC after the influential European Securities and Markets Authority (Esma) published a report criticizing the three main ratings agencies. It accused them of over reliance on junior support staff and disclosure of upcoming rating actions to unauthorized third parties, among other allegations.

Esma warned it may take action against the agencies if any of its findings amount to a breach of regulations.

(Read more: Ratings agencies face sanctions by EU watchdog)