Italian Bank Downgrades A Further Blow to the Stricken Euro
Moody’s downgrades 26 Italian banks > Rating cuts reflect deteriorating growth and liquidity situation in Eurozone > EUR continues slide
Moody’s on Monday downgraded the credit ratings of 26 Italian banks, with negative outlooks, sending the Euro even lower.
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The agency’s downgrades ranged in magnitude from one to four notches. Among the lenders affected were Italy’s three largest banks, with UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo both cut from A2 to A3, and Banco Popolare downgraded one notch to Baa3, the lowest investment grade.
In its note accompanying the announcement, Moody’s cited deteriorating economic conditions and the resulting threat to Italian banks’ asset quality. The Eurozone’s thid-largest economy has been in technical recession since the end of 2011, with Italy continuing to grapple with last fall's VAT increase and the Monti government’s 30 billion-Euro austerity measures.
At the same time, Moody’s also noted interbank funding markets, which have tightened since the ECB’s two LTROs. With Italian bond yields climbing once again after a dip earlier this year, refinancing on wholesale markets could very well become even more challenging for Italy's depository institutions.
The news sent the Euro – already under pressure from inconclusive Greek coalition talks – even lower toward the 1.2820 mark versus the US Dollar. With a string of Eurozone GDP reports on Tuesday expected to show a deterioration of growth prospects in the 17-member bloc, the increasingly likely prospect of new Greek elections, and the unresolved banking-sector troubles in Spain, Moody’s move is likely to be only one of several hurdles facing the Euro in the coming months.