Greece Wins Moody’s Upgrade as Reforms Starting to Bear Fruit

2
Mar

Greece Wins Moody’s Upgrade as Reforms Starting to Bear Fruit

Greece’s sovereign credit rating was raised two levels by Moody’s Investors Service, helping the government’s plan to sell new debt as soon as this month.

The country’s long-term foreign currencydebt was upgraded to B1 with a stable outlook from B3, Moody’s said in a statement on Friday. The new ranking remains four levels below investment grade.

“The ongoing reform effort is slowly starting to bear fruit in the economy,” Moody’s said. “While progress has been halting at times, with targets delayed or missed, the reform momentum appears to be increasingly entrenched, with good prospects for further progress and low risk of reversal.”

Greece exited its international bailout last summer, though foot-dragging on some key economic reforms is raising creditor concern and putting at risk a planned debt relief measure this month. The government is planning to tap the markets once again, after a successful sale of five-year bonds in January, most probably with a new 10-year bond this month, given that appetite for Greek risk among investors remains strong.

The country’s stocks and bonds have risen this year, with the Athens Stock Exchange index up about 16 percent since the start of 2019. The yield on benchmark 10-year bonds is now below 3.7 percent, compared with a peak of about 37 percent at the height of the debt crisis in 2012, when Greece defaulted on its debt to private-sector creditors.

“The most politically painful measures have already been enacted, with the economy finally showing signs of recovery, reducing the incentives for any future government to jeopardize the hard-won gains,” the rating company said. “The stable outlook balances the relatively low risk of policy or fiscal reversal against the limited upside to Greece’s credit profile.”

The upgrade is the first time in more than a year that Moody’s has changed Greece’s rating. Fitch Ratings upgraded the country to BB- in August, while S&P Global Ratings rates the country B+. Each is below the junk threshold.

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