Greek economy heads toward investment grade

Greek economy heads toward investment grade

Two international agencies have upgraded the Greek sovereign credit rating in the last few days, taking Greece closer to investment grade after a nearly decade of economic crisis and international bailouts.

On Friday US rating agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) announced the upgrading of the Greek rating by one notch to BB-, from B+, leaving Greece three notches below investment grade. S&P maintained its positive outlook for Greece.

This was the first rating upgrade for Greece by a major credit-rating agency after the government change in July.

Experts told Xinhua in recent interviews that emergence from "junk status" is attainable within a year.

"One notch is certainly not enough yet to take Greece to the brink of investment grade, as S&P has always been stricter than others towards the Greek economy, but that may happen next year," professor of finance Dimitris Kenourgios in the University of Athens said to Xinhua on Friday.

It followed an upgrade by German rating agency Scope to BB, from BB-, also with a positive outlook, a week earlier.

"Since the election of the New Democracy government in July, we can see renewed optimism regarding economic recovery, reflected in rising bank deposits, growth in business loans and increased commercial and residential property prices," Scope analyst Jakob Suwalski commented on Thursday.

In this context, experts consider it possible that the Greek economy emerges from "junk status" within a year, so that its bonds secure investment grade and can be accepted in the European Central Bank's bond buying program, also known as QE.

Nicola Mai, eurozone analyst at the PIMCO mutual funds, said Greece could return to the investment fold within the next six to 12 months, while Citigroup said in a report on Thursday that Greece can look forward to more rating upgrades.

Kenourgios agreed by saying that "if all goes well, within 2020 we will see the much needed emergence from the junk status that will also allow Greece to join the European Central Bank's QE program, with Mario Draghi (ECB president) saying that sooner or later Greece will enter it."

He added that meeting the growth and primary budget surplus targets, as well as reducing nonperforming loans and attracting investors, are the key conditions for Greece to regain investment grade.


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