Western Big Shots are ‘officially’ $7.6 Trillion in Debt

by Keith Jenkins
Bloomberg
January 3, 2012

Governments of the world’s leading economies have more than $7.6 trillion of debt maturing this year, with most facing a rise in borrowing costs.

Led by Japan’s $3 trillion and the U.S.’s $2.8 trillion, the amount coming due for the Group of Seven nations and Brazil, Russia, India and China is up from $7.4 trillion at this time last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Ten-year bond yields will be higher by year-end for at least seven of the countries, forecasts show.

Investors may demand higher compensation to lend to countries that struggle to finance increasing debt burdens as the global economy slows, surveys show. The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for growth this year to 4 percent from a prior estimate of 4.5 percent as Europe’s debt crisis spreads, the U.S. struggles to reduce a budget deficit exceeding $1 trillion and China’s property market cools.

“The weight of supply may be a concern,” Stuart Thomson, a money manager in Glasgow at Ignis Asset Management Ltd., which oversees $121 billion, said in a Dec. 28 telephone interview. “Rather than the start of the year being the problem, it’s the middle part of the year that becomes the problem. That’s when we see the slowdown in the global economy having its biggest impact.”

Competition for Buyers

The amount needing to be refinanced rises to more than $8 trillion when interest payments are included. Coming after a year in which Standard & Poor’s cut the U.S.’s rating to AA+ from AAA and put 15 European nations on notice for possible downgrades, the competition to find buyers is heating up.

“It is a big number and obviously because many governments are still in a deficit situation the debt continues to accumulate and that’s one of the biggest problems,” Elwin de Groot, an economist at Rabobank Nederland in Utrecht, Netherlands, part of the world’s biggest agricultural lender, said in an interview on Dec. 27.

While most of the world’s biggest debtors had little trouble financing their debt load in 2011, with Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Global Sovereign Broad Market Plus Index gaining 6.1 percent, the most since 2008, that may change.

Italy auctioned 7 billion euros ($9.1 billion) of debt on Dec. 29, less than the 8.5 billion euros targeted. With an economy sinking into its fourth recession since 2001, Prime Minister Mario Monti’s government must refinance about $428 billion of securities coming due this year, the third-most, with another $70 billion in interest payments, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Rising Costs

Borrowing costs for G-7 nations will rise as much as 39 percent in 2011, based on forecasts of 10-year government bond yields by economists and strategists surveyed by Bloomberg in separate surveys. China’s 10-year yields may remain little changed, while India’s are projected to fall to 8.02 percent from about 8.39 percent. The survey doesn’t include estimates for Russia and Brazil.

After Italy, France has the most amount of debt coming due, at $367 billion, followed by Germany at $285 billion. Canada has $221 billion, while Brazil has $169 billion, the U.K. has $165 billion, China (PRCH) has $121 billion and India $57 billion. Russia has the least maturing, or $13 billion.

Rising borrowing costs forced Greece, Portugal and Ireland to seek bailouts from the European Union and IMF. Italy’s 10- year yields exceeded 7 percent last month, a level that preceded the request for aid from those three nations.

Bad Combination

“The buyer base for peripheral Europe has obviously shrunk at the same time that the supply coming to the market is increasing, which is not a good combination,” said Michael Riddell, a London-based fund manager at M&G Investments, which oversees about $323 billion.

The two biggest debtors, Japan and the U.S., have shown little trouble attracting demand.

Japan benefits by having a surplus in its current account, which is the broadest measure of trade and means that the nation doesn’t need to rely on foreign investors to finance its budget deficits. The U.S. benefits from the dollar’s role as the world’s primary reserve currency.

Japan’s 10-year bond yields, at less than 1 percent, are the second-lowest in the world, after Switzerland, even though its debt is about twice the size of its economy.

The U.S. attracted $3.04 for each dollar of the $2.135 trillion in notes and bonds sold last year, the most since the government began releasing the data in 1992. The U.S. drew an all-time high bid-to-cover ratio of 9.07 for $30 billion of four-week bills it auctioned on Dec. 20 even though they pay zero percent interest.

Tougher Year

With yields on 10-year Treasuries (USGG10YR) below 2 percent, an increasing number of investors see little chance for U.S. bonds to repeat last year’s gains of 9.79 percent. The U.S pays an average interest rate of about 2.18 percent on its outstanding debt, down from 2.51 percent in 2009, Bloomberg data show.

‘Given how well they have done, we don’t think they’re any longer a very good hedge,” Eric Pellicciaro, head of global rates investment at New York-based BlackRock Inc., which manages $1.14 trillion in fixed-income assets, said in a Dec. 16 telephone interview.

The median estimate of 70 economists and strategists is for Treasury 10-year note yields to rise to 2.60 percent by year-end from 1.94 percent at 10:03 a.m. London time. In Japan, the forecast for the nation’s benchmark note yield is 1.35 percent, while it’s expected to rise to 2.50 percent in Germany, from 1.93 percent today.

Central Banks

Central banks are bolstering demand by either keeping interest rates at record lows or reducing them, and by purchasing bonds through a policy know as quantitative easing.

The Federal Reserve has said it will keep its target rate for overnight loans between banks between zero and 0.25 percent through mid-2013, and is now selling $400 billion of its short- term Treasuries and reinvesting the proceeds into longer-term government debt in a program traders dubbed Operation Twist.

The Bank of Japan has kept its key rate at or below 0.5 percent since 1995, and expanded the asset-purchase program last year to 20 trillion yen ($260 billion). The Bank of England kept its main rate at a record low 0.5 percent last month, and left its asset-buying target at 275 billion pounds ($426 billion).

The European Central Bank reduced its main refinancing rate twice last quarter, to 1 percent from 1.5 percent. It followed those moves by allotting 489 billion euros of three-year loans to euro-region lenders. That exceeded the median estimate of 293 billion euros in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. The central bank will offer a second three-year loan on Feb. 28.

‘Flush With Liquidity’

The money from the ECB may be used by banks to buy government bonds, according to Fabrizio Fiorini, the chief investment officer at Aletti Gestielle SGR SpA in Milan.

“The market is now flush with liquidity after measures taken by central banks, particularly the ECB, and that’s great news for risky assets,” Fiorini said in a telephone interview on Dec. 20. “The market will have no problem taking down supply from countries like Spain and Italy in the first quarter. In fact, they should be able to raise money at lower borrowing costs than what we saw in recent months.”

Italy’s sale last week included 2.5 billion euros of 5 percent bond due in March 2022, which yielded 6.98 percent. That was down from 7.56 percent at an auction Nov. 29. It also sold 9 billion euros of bills on Dec. 28 at a rate of 3.251 percent, compared with 6.504 percent at the previous auction on Nov. 25.

‘Phony War’

Investors should be most worried about the period after the ECB’s second three-year longer-term refinancing operation scheduled in February, according to Ignis’s Thomson.

“The amount of liquidity that has been supplied by central banks, with more to come from the ECB in February, suggests the first couple of months will be a sort of phony war as far as the supply is concerned,” Thomson said.

The ECB has bought about 212 billion euros of government bonds since starting a program in May 2010 to contain borrowing costs for Greece, Portugal and Ireland. It began buying Spanish and Italian debt in August, according to people familiar with the trades, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the transactions.

“There’s a lot of talk that the ECB might have to give more direct support to the governments,” Frances Hudson, who helps manage about $242 billion as a global strategist at Standard Life Investments in Edinburgh, said in a Dec. 22 telephone interview.

Following is a table of bond and bill redemptions and interest payments in 2012 for the Group of Seven countries, Brazil, China, India and Russia, in dollars, using data calculated by Bloomberg as of Dec. 29:

Country    2012 Bond, Bill Redemptions ($)      Coupon Payments
Japan             3,000 billion                   117 billion
U.S.              2,783 billion                   212 billion
Italy               428 billion                    72 billion
France              367 billion                    54 billion
Germany             285 billion                    45 billion
Canada              221 billion                    14 billion
Brazil              169 billion                    31 billion
U.K.                165 billion                    67 billion
China               121 billion                    41 billion
India                57 billion                    39 billion
Russia               13 billion                     9 billion


Dívida Nacional dos EUA é de 214 trilhões não 14 trilhões

Por Luis R. Miranda
NPR
11 agosto de 2011

Quando Standard & Poors reduziu o rating de crédito do país de AAA para AA-+, os Estados Unidos sofreu o seu primeiro downgrade da historia. S & P tomou esta ação, apesar do plano do Congresso que aprovou o aumento da dívida na semana passada.

O downgrade, a S & P disse, “reflete nossa opinião de que o plano de consolidação orçamental que o Congresso e o governo concordaram recentemente, a nosso ver, não é suficiente para estabilizar a dinâmica de pagamento da dívida do governo a médio prazo.”

São esses os problemas da dívida de médio e longo prazo que também preocupam ao professor de economia Laurence J. Kotlikoff, que atuou como economista sênior no Conselho de Assessores Econômicos do presidente Reagan. Ele diz que a dívida nacional, que o Tesouro dos EUA tem determinado é de cerca de US $ 14 trilhões, é apenas a ponta do iceberg.

“Nós temos todas essas dívidas não-oficiais que são enormes em comparação com a dívida oficial”, diz David Greene Kotlikoff, anfitrião do convidado da semana no programa de radio All Things Considered. “Estamos focados apenas na dívida pública, e estamos tentando equilibrar as contas erradas”.

Kotlikoff explica que as obrigacoes “não oficiais” da América – como a Segurança Social, Medicare e Medicaid – aumentam a dívida substancialmente.

“Se você somar todas as promessas que foram feitas para as obrigações de gastos, incluindo gastos de defesa, e você subtrair todos os impostos que nós esperamos recolher, a diferença é 211 trillioes de dólares. Essa é a lacuna fiscal “, diz ele. “Esse é o nosso endividamento verdadeiro.”

Nós não ouvimos mais sobre este número enorme, Kotlikoff diz, porque os políticos têm escolhido seu discurso com cuidado para manter a maior parte do problema fora dos livros.

“Por que esses caras pensam em equilibrar o orçamento?”, Diz ele. “Eles deveriam tentar e pensar sobre o nosso problema fiscal a longo prazo.”

De acordo com Kotlikoff, um dos maiores problemas fiscais que o Congresso deve focar é a obrigação da América para fazer os pagamentos da Segurança Social para as futuras gerações de idosos.

“Temos 78 milhões de baby boomers que estão prestes a se aposentar, em 15 a 20 anos, com US$ 40.000 por pessoa. Multiplique 78 milhões por 40.000 dólares – você está falando de mais de US$ 3 trilhões por ano apenas para uma parcela da população “, diz ele. “Essa é uma conta enorme que está pendendo sobre nossas cabeças, e o Congresso não está atento a ela.”

“Nós temos feito muito pouco muito tarde, temos nos preparado somente para o curto prazo, e achamos que o futuro iria cuidar de si mesmo, nós vamos lidar com isso amanhã”, diz ele. “Bem, adivinhem? Você não pode continuar adiando estes problemas. ”

Para eliminar o deficit fiscal, Kotlikoff diz, os EUA teriam que ter aumentos de impostos e reduções de gastos muito além do que está sendo negociado agora em Washington.

“O que você tem que fazer imediatamente e permanentemente é aumentar os impostos em cerca de dois terços, ou imediatamente e permanentemente cortar cada dólar de gastos em 40 por cento para sempre. Os números da Congressional Budget Office diz que temos um problema absolutamente enorme que enfrentamos. “

U.S. National Debt at $214 Trillion not $14 Trillion

NPR
August 11, 2011

When Standard & Poor’s reduced the nation’s credit rating from AAA to AA-plus, the United States suffered the first downgrade to its credit rating ever. S&P took this action despite the plan Congress passed this past week to raise the debt limit.

The downgrade, S&P said, “reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.”

It’s those medium- and long-term debt problems that also worry economics professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, who served as a senior economist on President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers. He says the national debt, which the U.S. Treasury has accounted at about $14 trillion, is just the tip of the iceberg.

“We have all these unofficial debts that are massive compared to the official debt,” Kotlikoff tells David Greene, guest host of weekends on All Things Considered. “We’re focused just on the official debt, so we’re trying to balance the wrong books.”

Kotlikoff explains that America’s “unofficial” payment obligations — like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits — jack up the debt figure substantially.

“If you add up all the promises that have been made for spending obligations, including defense expenditures, and you subtract all the taxes that we expect to collect, the difference is $211 trillion. That’s the fiscal gap,” he says. “That’s our true indebtedness.”

We don’t hear more about this enormous number, Kotlikoff says, because politicians have chosen their language carefully to keep most of the problem off the books.

“Why are these guys thinking about balancing the budget?” he says. “They should try and think about our long-term fiscal problems.”

According to Kotlikoff, one of the biggest fiscal problems Congress should focus on is America’s obligation to make Social Security payments to future generations of the elderly.

“We’ve got 78 million baby boomers who are poised to collect, in about 15 to 20 years, about $40,000 per person. Multiply 78 million by $40,000 — you’re talking about more than $3 trillion a year just to give to a portion of the population,” he says. “That’s an enormous bill that’s overhanging our heads, and Congress isn’t focused on it.”

“We’ve consistently done too little too late, looked too short-term, said the future would take care of itself, we’ll deal with that tomorrow,” he says. “Well, guess what? You can’t keep putting off these problems.”

To eliminate the fiscal gap, Kotlikoff says, the U.S. would have to have tax increases and spending reductions far beyond what’s being negotiated right now in Washington.

“What you have to do is either immediately and permanently raise taxes by about two-thirds, or immediately and permanently cut every dollar of spending by 40 percent forever. The [Congressional Budget Office’s] numbers say we have an absolutely enormous problem facing us.”

Manipulated Markets Make a Come Back

Does it make sense that during the deepest depression since 1929, the U.S. Stock Market comes back up from a 6oo+ point decline? Only a manipulated system where speculators have complete control could recover from a rout that showed how little confidence investors have in the market today.

by Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
August 9, 2011

While countries are in dire straits to make payments on mostly illegally acquired debts and the price of oil continues to fall; while little to nothing is produced or manufactured in the industrialized world and no ingenuity makes it big anywhere in the world; while the most important currencies continue to tumble and other financial markets turn more sour; while unemployment continues to grow from the low 20’s and more people make use of food stamps and unemployment benefits; while more jobs are exported to third world nations that support slave work for their populations and inflation is only tamed by artificial manipulation of the currencies; while numerous people look to gold and silver as their salvation, surprisingly the stock market came back from the pantheon and surged to recover from the slide seen just a few hours ago.

There is very little that can't be done when someone or something controls fiat currencies, rating agencies, and financial markets.

But not only did the stocks came back strong; they had the largest gains in more than two years. Along with this “come back” the U.S. dollar got weaker and the Swiss franc rose the most since 1971. Even the very same Standard & Poor Index managed to recover almost 5 percent, the most significant gains since 2009. In the meantime, the origin of the financial disaster, the privately owned banks headed by the Federal Reserve announced their intent to print more worthless money into the economy as a way to “boost” confidence. Even though QE1 and QE2 failed to provide any confidence, or for that matter failed to provide anything positive, the FED believes it is appropriate to bring up QE3. With this, the FED shows its interest to purchase more government bonds, which will consolidate its position as the largest holder of U.S. government debt.

“The Fed is clearly setting up a situation that could offer them the potential to do something significant, if necessary,” Bruce McCain, who helps oversee $22 billion as chief investment strategist at the private-banking unit of KeyCorp in Cleveland, said in a telephone interview. “That could be viewed as a positive,” added McCain. “People are starting to realize that what we’ve had in the market was an overreaction.” Really? Positive? How so?

Artificial Surge after the Decline

How can a stock market come back from a 600+ point decline in just a few hours if one considers that the cause of such loss -the downgrade of the U.S. debt rating- has not been dealt with? It simply boggles the mind, doesn’t it? The United States credit rating was lowered from AAA to AA+ by Standard & Poors, a rating agency that is paid by the banks to evaluate financial products and which is in part responsible for the current financial catastrophe. Together with Moody’s, S&P was created the by the banking system to carry out “independent” evaluations of financial products as well as credit confidence on institutions, state and local governments and of course whole nations.

According to Bloomberg, Stocks came back from a loss of $ 1 trillion after S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating last Friday evening. The results of the downgrade were not felt until Monday, when the Markets opened all over the world. The S&P index sank about 11 percent and the stock market lost 648 points or more than 6 percent. But just 24 hours later, everything was different. “The MSCI All-Country World Index rose 2.1 percent for its biggest gain of the year”, says Bloomberg. “The index started the U.S. session valued at about 12.1 times profits, down from 21 in 1995..The MSCI Emerging Markets Index pared today’s drop to 2.2 percent after tumbling as much as 4.4 percent.”

Stocks Rally? What Rally?

In the Stock Market, the Dow Jones climbed almost 430 or 4 percent, failing to completely recover from the recent loss. The stocks experienced the 1oth more significant gain in its history. Can you believe it? In the middle of a Depression, the stocks rally the much?

Meanwhile, in the S&P, shares got to the front of the line due to the numerically significant gains. In total, they accumulated some 8.2 percent all together. This is the biggest rally since May 2009, which meant a complete recovery from Monday’s low. Bank of America Corp., which is now being sued by AIG for fraud, managed to gain 17 percent while other players like Hartford Financial Services got back 16 percent.

Of course the main stream media is giving all credit to the Federal Reserve, due to its announcement that it intends to “boost” the economy by injecting worthless cash into it. The FED’s head, Ben Bernanke and his aides came out to try to calm the demise a bit, although not everyone at the FED agreed with the move to bring along a new quantitative easing move. Three members from the policy committee dissented and instead called for maintaining interest rates low for a longer period of time.

As the docu-film “The Inside Job” impeccably exposes, there is very little that can’t be done when someone or something has the power to create money out of thin air, create rating agencies, control those agencies to give AAA ratings to whatever they choose and electronically manipulate the financial stock and bond markets whenever it’s convenient in order to perpetuate the fraudulent debt-based system the world has worked under since 1913.

False Policy Changes

The best way to perpetuate the above cited financial system is to have the available tool continuously reinforce the falsehood of the Central Bank sponsored plans. So, Moody’s has come out to praise the FED’s move to maintain the interest rates at a quarter of a percent in order to bolster the downturn. It’s a  “major policy change,” said Augustine Faucher, director of macroeconomics at Moody’s. “By providing a more explicit time line for raising rates, the Fed is telling markets it is concerned about recent economic weakness and the potential for a near-term contraction, and is dedicated to spurring stronger economic growth,” Faucher added.

Just as this statement by Faucher is baseless, so is the belief that because the U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency, it can stand more beating than any other one. In fact, one of the reasons why the U.S. has not been downgraded further is that its currency is still consider valuable. Ironically, the dollar has lost 98 percent of its value since it became the subject of manipulation by the bankers. Moody’s has stated that the U.S. dollar can support larger levels of debt than other currencies. How do they figure that with a currency that is so devalued. They can’t figure it out. They just make it up.

The one world reserve currency scheme is only beneficial to those who control it, because the rest of the nations need to do business while devaluing their own. In sound economics, the value of paper money is based on a country’s production or manufacturing, therefore, the U.S. dollar can no longer be such reserve currency. U.S. manufacturing has eroded so badly, that it has cost the jobs of some 18 million people in the last few years.

If the U.S. dollar is still the world’s reserve currency, why are there other currencies that have better exchange rates than the dollar itself? I am no economic expert, but if the Swiss Frank rates higher than the dollar in currency exchange markets, shouldn’t the Frank be the reserve currency? Or even better, shouldn’t a commodity like gold be the reserve currency given its capacity to withstand recessions, depressions and financial market manipulations? It should. The reason why gold is not the reserve currency or at least the commodity over which a paper money currency is supported is that bankers cannot monopolize it, “hug” it or manipulate it.

High Market but Low Results: The World Economy in Shambles

While the banks try to extend the suffering period for the middle and low classes, countries in Europe are scrambling for a life boat to jump on. Although France and Germany are said to be negotiating an agreement to buy Spain’s and Italy’s debt in order to avoid a deeper economic collapse, some sources claim that the rescuers believe the Italian debt is too large to save. Both Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel began to hear opposition voices that are calling for a different position from the German and French governments. The reason for this is that an eventual bailout of Italy and Spain could cost the rescuers their AAA rating. This is seen as a possible trigger to drag the world’s economy further into the precipice.

Although U.S. markets artificially revived themselves on Tuesday, other countries were not as lucky. In Italy, the bond market saw a loss of 11 percent on its 10 year note. Just as the FED has done in the United States, the European Central Bank kept Italy and Spain afloat through the purchase of their bonds for a second day in a row. That was not enough to save the Spanish 10 year notes, as they collapsed eight basis points to 5.08 percent on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, oil prices hit some of the lowest levels for the year by getting down to $79.30 a barrel. Conversely, gold prices soared and added 4.1 percent to get to a record price of $1,782.50 an ounce.

Germany and France to Lose AAA Rating

Reuters
August 9, 2011

PARIS/LONDON – France and Britain are most vulnerable within Europe to a rating review following the U.S. downgrade, with anemic growth and hefty borrowing placing them among the shakiest of the world’s triple-A rated lenders.

Both countries have stable rating outlooks, making a sudden downgrade unlikely and markets have been so impressed by Britain’s debt-cutting strategy that they have pushed its bond yields to record lows.

But a surge in the cost of insuring French debt against default on Monday highlighted alarm sparked by Friday’s U.S. rating cut as banks and brokerages warned that rating agencies could now have top-rated European lenders in their sights.

“France has slipped into borderline AA+/Aa1/AA+ (one notch below AAA) territory, so risks to its AAA are rising as stresses spread,” financial services firm BBH said in a note to clients.

In another indication of mounting concern over France, spreads between French and German 10-year bond yields hit all-time highs last week and remained wide on Monday.

The most likely trigger for France to be put on negative watch would be a failure by the government to get parliamentary backing for a constitutional limit on future public deficits, with opposition left-wing lawmakers vowing to reject it.

Euro zone outsider Britain looks less vulnerable, having its own currency which could slide in value and its own interest rate, but it could also come under review given its weaker economic fundamentals.

“There are … lots of countries in Europe that should be downgraded just as the U.S. has been downgraded,” U.S. investor Jim Rogers, co-founder of the Quantum Fund, told Reuters Insider as world leaders battled to calm a market rout driven by concern about U.S. and European debt levels.

After making history by stripping America of its AAA-rating, Standard and Poor’s reaffirmed France’s top-notch status and stable outlook at the weekend. Moody’s and Fitch declined to comment, but neither has given any indication they could change their outlooks on the United States, France or Britain.

Providing further comfort, fund managers poured into French and British bonds in early trading as Friday’s U.S. downgrade forced them to shift funds out of U.S. treasuries.

However, French five-year credit default swaps (CDS) surged 15.5 basis points on the day to a record-high 160 bps, according to data monitor Markit, taking it closer to the level of AA-rated states such as Belgium, though analysts warned the market often overreacts.

“The CDS market is very dysfunctional,” said Mark Schofield, global head of interest rate strategy at Citi.

“Although France from the perspective of fiscal fundamentals looks the weakest of the triple-A issuers in Europe, I still think that given very low levels of yields, the depth of the domestic market, the ability to continue to fund at low levels, it’s unlikely France will be downgraded in the near future.”

As for Britain, he added: “It’s unlikely that the UK will be downgraded. At this point in time, we’ve seen very significant fiscal tightening put in place.”

FRENCH POLITICS IN FOCUS

In the euro zone, only Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have a triple-A rating, and French debt costs the most to insure.

France also has the highest deficit, debt and primary deficit of any of them and it is the only triple-A euro zone country running a current account deficit.

Its debt to GDP ratio — set to hit 86.9 percent next year and described by the national audit office as nearing the danger zone — could be pushed even higher by France’s contribution to a new Greece bailout.

S&P said in June it would probably downgrade France in the long term without further reforms and that to preserve its AAA rating France must balance its budget in the next five years, something not achieved since 1974.

It could re-examine its rating outlook as soon as the autumn if President Nicolas Sarkozy fails to win backing for his constitutional budget-balancing rule. Winning would require a three-fifths majority in a two-chamber parliamentary vote and the opposition Socialist Party has vowed to vote against.

“It would be a call for action,” for ratings agencies, said Deutsche Bank analyst Gilles Moec.

He said France was “intrinsically in a better situation” than the United States and could stave off a downgrade by accelerating deficit cuts, one idea being to raise value-added taxes and trim social contributions on labor.

Also weighing on France is a possible swing to a left-wing government after a presidential election next April. The Socialists have vowed to tinker, if they win, with a 2010 retirement reform aimed at cutting future pension costs.

WEAK GROWTH UK’S MAIN RISK

Britain has an even bigger deficit, primary deficit and debt to GDP ratio than France, and also runs a current account deficit but weak growth — and the damaging effect that would have on its debt pile — is its main threat.

Moody’s warned in June that it could reconsider its stance on Britain in the event of lower growth combined with weak fiscal consolidation.

Citi’s Schofield agreed, saying: “The big risks would be a very sharp slowdown in growth and/or huge political upheavals, if you started to get a breakdown in the coalition.”

Broadly, however, markets have faith in Britain’s ability to pay back its debt, despite a budget deficit of some 10 percent, because of an austerity plan that includes tax increases and unprecedented cuts in public spending.

Yields on 10-year gilts hit a record low of 2.59 percent last week and British debt continued to outperform European debt on Monday as investors looked for safe havens.

Yet, the economy has basically stalled over the last nine months and even the government’s fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, has acknowledged its growth forecast of 1.7 percent for 2011 looks too high.

Lower growth means lower tax receipts and maybe a higher welfare bill if unemployment rises, all of which will add to debt.

The opposition has called for emergency tax cuts and some observers were quick to blame riots in London over the weekend on public spending cuts and dire economic prospects.

“Notwithstanding the fact that the UK is still struggling with its own economic recovery, we are pretty confident that the coalition is going to hold in the UK,” David Beers, head of Standard & Poor’s sovereign ratings, told Reuters Insider.