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In short, probably not. Today, the three major agencies reaffirmed France's top-tier rating and stable outlook even though the French economy suffers most of the same problems suffered in the United States, as can be seen in the charts below.

Debt to GDP: The charts below (click to enlarge images) show that as a percentage of GDP, France's debt has been rising dramatically, nearly as much as the United States.

Trade Balance: France's trade deficit is also a problem. The difference between the United States and France is that France has been running a deficit for only six or seven years, while the United States has been for twenty plus years.

Currency: Over the past six months, the Euro has gotten weaker against the US dollar, but since 2007 it has been almost equally as weak as the US dollar.

GDP: GDP in France has been very similar to that in the United States over the past decade.

Unemployment: Unemployment in both France and the United States is at roughly the same level, with France actually slightly worse off.


The reason France has not been experiencing trade deficits for as long as the United States is due to the Chinese yuan. The Chinese have been essentially manipulating the US dollar Chinese yuan relationship, which has caused Chinese products to be dirt cheap in the United States, and for the United States to experience a trade deficit for many, many years as a result. As a consequence, the United States began to have financial problems from such large deficits and had to devalue the US dollar. This devaluation intensified in about 2007 during the financial crisis. The further consequence was that US exports began to rise, but the trade deficit in France worsened.

In other words, the Chinese essentially stole exports from the United States. Then to fix their problems, the United States essentially stole exports from the eurozone, including France. Now France has a worsening trade deficit as a result. This is occurring all while France has economic indicators which nearly mirror those of the United States. Therefore, without significant devaluation of the euro, France will suffer from an even worse economy than the United States. Fortunately for France, the euro has devalued significantly over the past six months in particular.


The key difference between the US and France in the eyes of the credit agencies obviously cannot be economics, even though a few differences exist. It instead appears to be based on political gridlock. When Congress threatened to default on the treasury payments, it crossed a line which credit agencies cannot stand for. As long as the French do not threaten to default on their debt, they are not likely to lose AAA status anytime soon. After witnessing the financial markets' reaction to the United States downgrade, you can bet France will not be making any threats about default anytime soon.

Note: The iShares MSCI France Index ETF (NYSEARCA:EWQ) will allow broad exposure to the French equity market, while the SPDR S&P 500 Trust ETF (NYSEARCA:SPY), PowerShares QQQ Trust ETF (NASDAQ:QQQ), or SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (NYSEARCA:DIA) will provide exposure to the United States equity market.

Disclosure: I am long SPY in very conservative options.