Will this be the last straw to decouple gold from the stock market? Unless some very strong measures are finalized over the weekend, next week’s financial markets may become a bloodbath.
Standard & Poor’s cut the credit ratings of nine European countries on Friday in a widely-anticipated move. Rumors that the downgrades were imminent had been circulating in various reports throughout the day.
S&P lowered its long-term rating on Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain by two notches, and cut its rating on Austria, France, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia by one notch.
“Today’s rating actions are primarily driven by our assessment that the policy initiatives that have been taken by European policy makers in recent weeks may be insufficient to fully address ongoing systemic stresses in the euro zone,” S&P said in a press release announcing the downgrade.
The credit-rating agency affirmed the current long-term ratings for Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
In December, S&P placed the ratings of 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 17-nation bloc.
Since then, the European Central Bank has flooded the banking system with cheap three-year money to avert a credit crunch. At the time, the U.S.-based ratings agency said it could also downgrade the euro zone’s current bailout fund, the EFSF .
The credit-rating agency said its long-term ratings outlooks for Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain are “negative.”
A negative outlook indicates that S&P believes there is at least a one-in-three chance that a country’s rating will be lowered in 2012 or 2013.