Investing

Friday Surprise: Greece and Spain Get Credit Ratings Upgrades

It seems almost too hard to believe, but we have seen two of the PIIGS upgraded by different credit ratings agencies this Friday. Fitch ratings has raised Greece’s sovereign credit rating, and Standard & Poor’s has raised Spain’s sovereign rating.

Fitch Ratings raised Greece’s long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) to B from B-. Also of note, the Outlooks are Stable. Greece’s senior unsecured foreign and local currency bonds have also been raised to B from B-. The Country Ceiling has been raised to BB from B+, and the short-term foreign currency IDR has been affirmed at B.

Fitch said that Greece achieved a primary surplus in the general government account in 2013, which was listed as a key target of the EU-IMF program and an overperformance relative to budget. Taking into account the cost of bank recapitalization, the headline deficit was 12.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) and Fitch is now forecasting that Greece’s adjusted primary surplus will rise further in 2014 to 1.4% of GDP.

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On Spain, Standard & Poor’s raised its sovereign rating BBB from BBB- and the Outlook is Stable. S&P is increasing Spain’s growth forecasts. What should stand out is that this is first upgrade of Spain since S&P stripped Spain of its AAA rating in 2009. What is important here is that Spain was one notch above junk, and this upgrade reverses a trend. It could make Spain’s borrowing costs cheaper. Both Fitch and Moody’s had raised Spain earlier in 2014.

There are exchange traded funds for both plays. The Global X FTSE Greece 20 ETF (NYSEMKT: GREK) is at $21.33, against a 52-week range of $14.11 to $25.76. The volume has picked up of late in the Greek ETF. Similarly, we have seen recent credit and analyst upgrades for National Bank of Greece S.A. (NYSE: NBG), but its ADSs in New York remain lackluster. Trading at $3.12, its adjusted 52-week trading range is $2.85 to $12.50. For Spain, there is the iShares MSCI Spain Capped (NYSEMKT: EWP) ETF. It trades at $41.67, and its 52-week range is $27.50 to $42.58.

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