Fitch Ratings affirmed the United States Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) and Fitch-rated U.S. Treasury security ratings at ‘AAA’. Fitch has also simultaneously affirmed the U.S. Country Ceiling at ‘AAA’ and the Short-term foreign currency rating at ‘F1+’. The rating Outlook on the Long-term rating is revised to Negative from Stable.
The affirmation of the U.S. ‘AAA’ sovereign rating reflects still strong economic and credit fundamentals. U.S. sovereign liabilities, both the dollar and Treasury securities, remain the global benchmark and accordingly the U.S. credit profile benefits from unparalleled financing flexibility and enhanced debt tolerance, even relative to other large ‘AAA’-rated sovereigns. The U.S. dollar’s status as the preeminent global reserve currency and depth of the U.S. Treasury market render financing risks minimal and underpin a low cost of fiscal funding.
Fitch’s revised fiscal projections envisage federal debt held by the public exceeding 90% of national income (GDP) and debt interest consuming more than 20% of tax revenues by the end of the decade, and including the debt of state and local governments – gross general government debt will reach 110% of GDP over the same period. In Fitch’s opinion, such a level of government indebtedness would no longer be consistent with the U.S. retaining its ‘AAA’ status despite its underlying strengths. Such high levels of indebtedness would limit the scope for counter-cyclical fiscal policies and the U.S. government’s ability to respond to future economic and financial crises.
The Negative Outlook reflects Fitch’s declining confidence that timely fiscal measures necessary to place U.S. public finances on a sustainable path and secure the U.S. ‘AAA’ sovereign rating will be forthcoming.
The Negative Outlook indicates a slightly greater than 50% chance of a downgrade over a two-year horizon. Fitch will shortly publish its revised economic and fiscal projections for the U.S. and will conduct a further review of its sovereign ratings in 2012. However, in the absence of material adverse shocks, Fitch does not expect to resolve the Negative Outlook until late 2013, taking into account any deficit-reduction strategy that emerges after Congressional and Presidential elections.
Fitch also took the following related ratings actions: