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Greece, Spain see sovereign debt upgrades

Two of the euro zone's former emergency cases, Greece and Spain, received a welcome boost Friday from upgrades by U.S credit ratings agencies, heralding a further rehabilitation for the two crisis-hit countries.

The sovereign credit rating of Spain was raised one level to BBB by ratings agency Standard & Poor's, boosting the outlook to stable, following similar calls from other agencies this year.

At the same time, Greece's sovereign rating was also upgraded to B from B- by rival agency Fitch, after it achieved the "key target" of a primary surplus in the general government account this year, the ratings firm said. While still in junk territory, Fitch also said the outlook for the country is improving.

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The agency's revised outlook on Greece come as the European Union heads to the polls on Sunday for the European parliamentary elections and local elections. The agency said it expects Greece's gross domestic product growth of 0.5 percent this year and 2.5 percent in 2015 and the following year.

Greece has come a long way in improving its economic situation since receiving the first of its two bailout loans worth 240 billion euros in 2010. The cutback and reforms imposed on the country as a condition of the loans put the brakes on Greece's economy - sending unemployment to a record of high of 28 percent. Spain, meanwhile. ran in trouble propping up its banks after a real estate crash. The country was forced into taking a bank bailout loan package from its fellow euro zone countries.

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On Spain, Standard & Poor's (S&P) said the outlook is stable and the upgrade reflected the firm's current view that "risks to the ratings on Spain will remain balanced over the next two years."

Chief sovereign rating officer at S&P, Moritz Kraemer said Spain's upgrade was a "reflection of some of the fruit being now harvested from the structural and labor reforms Spain has enacted."

S&P revised up its average 2014-2016 real GDP growth forecasts for Spain to 1.6 percent from 1.2 percent, reflecting the effects of the reform measures.

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Spain upgrade is fruit of reforms: S&P
Spain upgrade is fruit of reforms: S&P

While the Spanish reforms have resulted in the upgrade, Kraemer warned that the country's debt were still close to all time highs.

"It (debt) remains one of the key weaknesses of the Spanish credit profile. When Spain joined the euro zone in 1999, the debt in the economy meaning the private and public sector taken together was 150 percent of GDP," he told CNBC

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"The last reading that we have is twice that – 300 percent. It is large, in the euro zone you only have Ireland and Portugal which have even higher debt levels so the delevering still has a long way to go," he added.

Peripheral bond yields have fallen significantly this year as investors' confidence in the currency bloc and on expectation of further intervention from the European Central Bank.

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Speaking on bond yields in the periphery Kraemer said it was not for a rating agency to comment on whether a bond is "priced rightly or wrongly".

"We have downgraded triple sovereigns when they were still trading like they were triple A credit. We have never fallen into the same hole of despair that the markets displayed during 2010, 2011 and some parts of 2012," he added.

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Spain upgrade is fruit of reforms: S&P
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