If you had asked me — and I believe I've been on record claiming that this event would never happen — the probability of US government blessed Rating Agencies to downgrade the debt of the US was 0%. I will consider this to one of black swan events that nobody was expecting to happen, or even worse, nobody thought this is in the realm of possibilities.
This should have massive consequences for pension funds and many other funds which are only by contract allowed to invest to AAA bonds.
I congratulate S&P for having had the political courage to make such a move and prove that it's trying to be independent.
(Bloomberg) Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S.’s AAA credit rating for the first time, slamming the nation’s political process and criticizing lawmakers for failing to cut spending enough to reduce record budget deficits.
S&P lowered the U.S. one level to AA+ while keeping the outlook at “negative” as it becomes less confident Congress will end Bush-era tax cuts or tackle entitlements. The rating may be cut to AA within two years if spending reductions are lower than agreed to, interest rates rise or “new fiscal pressures” result in higher general government debt, the New York-based firm said yesterday.
“The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics,” S&P said in a statement late yesterday after markets closed.
The U.S. immediately lashed out at S&P, with a Treasury Department spokesman saying the firm’s analysis contains a $2 trillion error. The spokesman, who asked not to be identified by name, didn’t elaborate, saying the mistake speaks for itself.
Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings affirmed their AAA credit ratings on Aug. 2, the day President Barack Obama signed a bill that ended the debt-ceiling impasse that pushed the Treasury to the edge of default. Moody’s and Fitch also said that downgrades were possible if lawmakers fail to enact debt reduction measures and the economy weakens.
“This move should not be much of a surprise to markets, though the timing is at a point where market sentiment is fragile after the drop in stocks this week,” said Ajay Rajadhyaksha, a managing director at Barclays Capital in New York. “What really matters is whether the markets are willing to ‘downgrade’ the U.S. bond market. As this week’s move showed, U.S. Treasuries remain the flight-to-quality asset of choice.”
“More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating,” S&P said.
S&P put the U.S. government on notice on April 18 that it risks losing the AAA rating it has had since 1941 unless lawmakers agreed on a plan by 2013 to reduce budget deficits and the national debt. It indicated last month that anything less than $4 trillion in cuts would jeopardize the rating.
“That impact on Treasury rates is significant,” Belton, global head of fixed-income strategy at JPMorgan, said during the call. “That $100 billion a year is money being used for higher interest rates and that’s money being taken away from other goods and services.”