After a disastrous 30Y bond auction this week, a collapse in Treasury market liquidity, and an accelerating rise in the market’s perception of the United States’ credit risk, Moody’s has just cut its outlook on US credit ratings to negative from stable.
The key driver of the outlook change to negative is Moody’s assessment that the downside risks to the US’ fiscal strength have increased and may no longer be fully offset by the sovereign’s unique credit strengths.
In the context of higher interest rates, without effective fiscal policy measures to reduce government spending or increase revenues, Moody’s expects that the US’ fiscal deficits will remain very large, significantly weakening debt affordability.
Continued political polarization within US Congress raises the risk that successive governments will not be able to reach consensus on a fiscal plan to slow the decline in debt affordability.
Moody’s does affirm the Aaa rating:
The affirmation of the Aaa ratings reflects Moody’s view that the US’ formidable credit strengths continue to preserve the sovereign’s credit profile.
- First, Moody’s expects the US to retain its exceptional economic strength. Further positive growth surprises over the medium term could at least slow the deterioration in debt affordability.
- Second, the US’ institutional and governance strength is also very high, supported in particular by monetary and macroeconomic policy effectiveness. While the adjustment of the US economy and financial sector to higher-for-longer interest rates is underway, policymakers have facilitated the transition through transparent and effective policy.
- Finally, the unique and central roles of the US dollar and Treasury bond market in the global financial system provide extraordinary funding capacity and significantly reduce the risk of a sudden spiraling of funding costs, which is particularly relevant in the context of high debt levels and weakening debt affordability.
The US’ long-term local- and foreign-currency country ceilings remain unchanged at Aaa. The Aaa local-currency ceiling reflects a small government footprint in the economy, relatively predictable and reliable institutions, very low external imbalances and moderate political risks, all of which reduce the risks posed to non-government issuers by government actions or shocks that would commonly affect the government and the private sector. The foreign-currency ceiling at Aaa reflects the country’s strong policy effectiveness and open capital account which reduce transfer and convertibility risks to minimal levels.
Source: Moody, Bloomberg