The Debt Downgrade Deluge
First, it was Greece, and then it was Portugal; now it’s Spain. Of course, I am talking here about the recent debt downgrades in these three PIIGS nations. PIIGS is the market acronym that stands for Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain, and so far three of these five little piggies have been taken out to slaughter by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s.
Today, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Spain’s long-term credit rating by one notch to double-A. The agency also gave a negative outlook on the EU nation, saying that Spain is likely to experience an extended period of subdued economic growth that will put pressure on the country’s federal budget and its ability to repay debt.
On Tuesday, Greece and Portugal were downgraded two notches each. In the case of Greece, that nation’s debt rating was downgraded to junk status. Portugal isn’t quite as bad as Greece, but that country also is having a woeful time managing its budget in the face of the current economic climate.
The debt problems in Greece, Portugal and Spain aren’t isolated cases, and I suspect we could see a lot more debt downgrades in Europe before this deluge is over. The thing that worries me about this situation is that the spend-and-borrow policies that pushed these countries into their current predicament actually are being followed, to a large degree, here in the United States.
We saw what kind of havoc these downgrades wreaked on stocks around the globe in Tuesday’s trade, and just think what could happen to global equities if the United States goes the same way as these three PIIGS nations. I shutter to even think about it, yet my reason forces me to keep this possibility on my list of future threats to investor wealth.
If our government keeps playing the big spend-and-borrow game for too much longer, we could begin to resemble Greece — without the ouzo, the Mediterranean Sea and the Parthenon.