Credit rating agency Fitch has downgraded Italy’s credit to BBB-minus, one position above “Junk” – a status issued to warn investors there is a risk of defaulting or unable to pay interest payments. Fitch had not been due to review the credit of the EU’s third-largest economy until July, however rising debt and slow growth during the coronavirus pandemic has triggered fiscal intervention.
Commenting on the decision, BBC Katya Adler said: “This will really hurt in #coronavirus battered Italy, raising borrowing costs further.”
In its projections Fitch warned the Italian economy will contract by eight percent this year.
The agency also forecast Italy’s public debt will climb to 156 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – a rise from 134.8 percent in 2019.
In a statement Fitch said: “The downgrade reflects the significant impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic on Italy’s economy and the sovereign’s fiscal position.
“According to our baseline debt dynamics scenario, the debt to GDP ratio will only stabilise at this very high level over the medium term, underlining debt sustainability risks.”
Fitch issues a credit rating on a scale from AAA to D.
The coveted AAA “Highest credit quality” rating denotes the lowest expectation of default risk and is highly unlikely to be adversely affected by foreseeable events.
The lowest D “Default” rating indicates bankruptcy.
Mike Riddell, a bond fund manager at Allianz Global Investors said: “Italy’s debt is probably heading to somewhere upwards of 170 per cent of GDP next year.
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In a bid to protect the Eurozone during the COVID-19 crisis the ECB launched a £656billion (€750bn) Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) which has helped keep a lid on Italian bond yields.
Italy has recorded the most coronavirus deaths in Europe and second only behind the US in the world.
Since the start of the outbreak COVID-19 infections in Italy have surpassed 200,000 with more than 27,000 deaths.