(Corrects paragraph 8 to show rating is two notches above “junk”, not one)
BOGOTA, May 19 (Reuters) - Colombia will work to maintain market confidence in its finances, Finance Minister Jose Manuel Restrepo said on Wednesday, after S&P Global Rating relegated its credit rating to junk bond status.
S&P Global Ratings lowered its long-term foreign currency rating on Colombia to BB-plus from BBB-minus, saying it believes the Andean country’s fiscal adjustment will be more protracted and gradual than previously expected.
The rating agency said Colombia’s outlook “is stable, reflecting our view that economic recovery, coupled with certain fiscal measures, will stabilize the government’s recently worsening debt burden over the coming two to three years.”
Colombia will accelerate economic growth and job creation, as well as bring stability to public finances, and secure funding for aid programs, Restrepo said.
“These are the three pillars which we will keep developing in order to maintain the confidence that markets have historically had in our country,” he said in audio remarks distributed to the press.
Restrepo was recently appointed finance minister following the departure of Alberto Carrasquilla, who resigned after a controversial tax reform was withdrawn from Congress amid protests that have sometimes turned violent.
DOWNGRADE IN THE CARDS
An S&P analysis of credit default swaps, or insurance to protect against a default, showed that financial markets had already priced in a one-notch downgrade for Colombia.
Rating agency Fitch rates the South American country at the lowest investment grade rank, with a negative outlook, while for Moody’s it is two notches above “junk.” A downgrade out of investment grade from any of the two could force some investors out of Colombia.
Colombia has $134.4 billion in marketable debt outstanding according to Refinitiv data, of which $32.4 billion is denominated in U.S. dollars. Including quasi-sovereigns, total debt rises to $152.3 billion, with $43.9 billion in dollars.
The Colombian peso is down over 7% so far this year against the dollar, making it the third-weakest among the main emerging market currencies after Turkey and Argentina. (Reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler & Simon Cameron-Moore)
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