Fitch Threatens To Cut US Credit Rating As Debt-Ceiling Battle Looms
In what has become a perennial exercise before every debt-ceiling showdown since at least Obama's first term (when S&P did the unthinkable and cut the US's coveted AAA credit rating, exposing itself to extensive abuse by Tim Geithner), ratings agencies are starting to beat the credit-rating downgrade drum, with Fitch getting a jump on the competition Wednesday when its head of sovereign ratings warned that an enduring shutdown battle could negatively impact the negotiations over the debt ceiling, which could prompt Fitch to join S&P in eliminating its AAA rating for the US.
During an interview with CNBC and a separate appearance in London (where his comments were recorded by Reuters), Fitch’s global head of sovereign ratings James McCormack warned of a possible cut to its AAA rating for the U.S. sovereign should the shutdown continue to March, noting that the shutdown and debt ceiling battle are adding to anxieties triggered by President Trump's tax cuts and spending hikes, which have blown out the budget deficit and led to a "meaningful fiscal deterioration."
"I think people are looking at the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) numbers. If people take the time to look at that you can see debt levels moving higher, you can see the interest burden in the U.S. government moving decidedly higher over the next decade," James McCormack, Fitch's global head of sovereign ratings told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Wednesday.
"There needs to be some kind of fiscal adjustment to offset that or the deficit itself moves higher and you're essentially borrowing money to pay interest on the debt. So there is a meaningful fiscal deterioration there, going on the United States."
Watch his interview with CNBC below:
McCormack added later that Fitch would need to seriously consider a cut if the shutdown continues: "If this shutdown continues to March 1 and the debt ceiling becomes a problem several months later, we may need to start thinking about the policy framework, the inability to pass a budget...And whether all of that is consistent with triple-A."
"From a rating point of view it is the debt ceiling that is problematic."