S&P must believe that a new credit crisis is on the way, or at least there is a reasonably good chance there could be. It hit several of the world’s largest banks with downgrades, in particular Barclays PLC (NYSE: BCS), Deutsche Bank A.G. (NYSE: DB) and Credit Suisse Group A.G. (NYSE: CS), citing “increasing risks that Europe’s large banking groups active in investment banking face as regulators and uncertain market conditions continue to make operating in the industry more difficult.”
However, these risks have been in place for some time, which leads to the question of the credit rating agency’s timing.
S&P answered that question by saying:
we consider that these banks’ debtholders face heightened credit risk owing to the industry’s tighter regulation, fragile global markets, stagnant European economies, and rising litigation risk stemming from the financial crisis.
UBS A.G. (NYSE: UBS) dodged an action, and its rating was kept the same.
[I]t lowered its long-term counterparty credit ratings on Barclays Bank PLC, Credit Suisse AG, and Deutsche Bank AG to ‘A’ from ‘A+’. At the same time, we affirmed our ‘A/A-1′ long- and short-term ratings on UBS AG. The outlooks on these banks are stable.
If S&P’s opinion about the trend knocked the ratings down, there may be more to come.