LONDON Dec 23 Standard & Poor's is expected to
release its eagerly awaited verdict on debt ratings for 15 euro
zone countries in January, two independent European government
sources told Reuters.
"We have got an informal signal from Standard & Poor's that
they will come only in January," said one source who declined to
be named because exchanges with the rating agency are
"In conversations we have had, they have let this be known
if you read between the lines," he added.
He said he could only speak for his country but assumed all
15 countries under review would learn of the decision at the
A senior euro zone source from another country also said the
ratings agency's decision was likely to come next month.
S&P warned on Dec. 6 that it may carry out an unprecedented
mass downgrade of credit ratings of euro zone countries if EU
leaders failed to agree on how to solve the region's debt crisis
at a Dec. 9 summit.
The ratings agency said it expected to conclude its review
as soon as possible after the summit.
An S&P spokesman declined to comment on Friday.
The ratings agency placed 15 euro zone countries on credit
watch negative - including those of top-rated Germany and
France, the region's two biggest economies - and said "systemic
stresses" were building up as credit conditions tighten in the
While credit watch negative typically signals a possible
downgrade in no more than three months, S&P said at the time it
expected to conclude its review "as soon as possible" following
Policymakers at the EU summit focused on a plan for tighter
euro zone fiscal rules, which they hope will prevent debt
problems from worsening.
But the market response has been cool, due also to the
reluctance of the European Central Bank to play a more
Other ratings agencies are also keeping a close eye on the
Moody's, which reaffirmed Austria's top rating on Friday,
had said it would review the ratings of all 27 EU states in the
first quarter of next year.
Fitch Ratings last week put six euro zone economies
including Italy and Spain on watch for potential near-term
downgrades, saying it thought a comprehensive solution to the
euro zone's debt crisis was beyond reach.