Moody's Investors Service downgraded France's government bond rating by one notch to AA1 from from AAA. The outlook remains negative.
This rating action follows Moody's decision to change to negative the outlooks on the Aaa ratings of Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. At the time, Moody's also announced that it would assess France's Aaa sovereign rating and its outlook, which had been changed to negative on Feb. 13, 2012, to determine the impact of the elevated risk of a Greek exit from the euro area, the growing likelihood of collective support for other euro area sovereigns and stalled economic growth. Today's rating action concludes this assessment.
Moody's decision to downgrade France's rating and maintain the negative outlook reflects the following key interrelated factors:
France's long-term economic growth outlook is negatively affected by multiple structural challenges, including its gradual, sustained loss of competitiveness and the long-standing rigidities of its labour, goods and service markets.
France's fiscal outlook is uncertain as a result of its deteriorating economic prospects, both in the short term due to subdued domestic and external demand, and in the longer term due to the structural rigidities noted above.
The predictability of France's resilience to future euro area shocks is diminishing in view of the rising risks to economic growth, fiscal performance and cost of funding. France's exposure to peripheral Europe through its trade linkages and its banking system is disproportionately large, and its contingent obligations to support other euro area members have been increasing. Moreover, unlike other non-euro area sovereigns that carry similarly high ratings, France does not have access to a national central bank for the financing of its debt in the event of a market disruption.
At the same time, Moody's explains that France remains extremely highly rated, at Aa1, because of the country's significant credit strengths, which include - a large and diversified economy which underpins France's economic resiliency, and a strong commitment to structural reforms and fiscal consolidation, as reflected in recent governmental announcements, which may, over the medium term, mitigate some of the structural rigidities and improve France's debt dynamics.