Fitch poised to cut UK's AAA rating soon

Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:02pm EDT
 
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By Christina Fincher and Daniel Bases

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Britain looked poised to lose its AAA rating from a second ratings agency after Fitch Ratings warned on Friday it was likely to downgrade the country in the coming weeks, citing high government debt levels and weak growth.

A month since Britain was downgraded by Moody's, Fitch put the country on review and said a downgrade was a heightened possibility. A decision is due by the end of April, Fitch said in a statement.

Sterling fell sharply, dropping half a cent against the dollar.

The review announcement comes hard on the heels of the government's annual budget this week, which halved Britain's growth forecast for this year and raised borrowing projections.

The move by Fitch was not unexpected but will be another setback for finance minister George Osborne. He has staked his reputation on repairing Britain's public finances and had promised to protect its triple-A rating.

Britain's finance ministry, which is three years into an austerity plan, said Fitch's announcement showed "there are no easy answers to problems built up over many years".

"But we are, slowly but surely, fixing our country's economic problems," a Treasury spokesman said, citing a reduction by one third of the budget deficit and the creation of 1.25 million jobs since the government took office in 2010.

'WASTED CHANCE'   Continued...

 
A flag is reflected on the window of the Fitch Ratings headquarters in New York February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid