VISITORS to Lisbon, Portugal’s hilly capital, usually seek its nightlife, its sweet custard tarts (pasteis de nata) or its gothic architecture. But no guidebook could help two visitors on October 10th. The pair of analysts, from Dominion Bond Rating Service (DBRS), a Canadian credit-ratings agency, went to assess the creditworthiness of the Portuguese government.
Markets are waiting anxiously for October 21st, when DBRS will update its rating of Portuguese sovereign debt. Hints from DBRS have been playing havoc with the ten-year bond yield: in August a gloomy comment from Fergus McCormick, DBRS’s chief economist, saw it climb 14 basis points (hundredths of a percentage point). This week, word that DBRS was “totally comfortable” with the government’s fiscal position saw it dip by ten basis points.
This unusual attention to a little-known ratings agency is due to the eligibility rules for the European Central Bank’s (ECB) quantitative-easing scheme. The ECB will buy only sovereign debt that is rated as investment grade by at least one of four approved ratings agencies: Fitch, Moody’s,…Continue reading