Ratings agency: France 'treated like BBB' country
The chief economist at ratings agency Standard & Poor's has told Le Parisien newspaper that investors are already treating France as if it had a BBB rating.
The comment was lent some credibility by a bond auction on Thursday in which France was forced to pay an interest rate of 3.29 percent. This is much higher than the 1.93 percent paid by AAA-rated Germany.
Jean-Michel Six, chief European economist, and Carol Sirou, the president of Standard & Poor's in France, gave a rare interview with the daily newspaper in which they tried to deflect some of the criticism they and other ratings agencies have received in France.
France and several other EU countries were put on notice late in 2011 that their AAA ratings were under threat as the eurozone debt crisis continues.
A prominent union leader said President Nicolas Sarkozy was the "hostage" of the ratings agencies in an interview on Thursday
Since receiving its warning, the French government has made cuts of €20 billion ($25.6 billion) in an attempt to bring its public deficit down to 4.5 percent of GDP from 5.7 in 2011.
More recently, ministers have been trying to downplay the impact a downgrade might have.
"It would be another difficulty, but not an insurmountable one," the president told Le Monde newspaper in December.
"If they decide to take it away from us we'll face the situation with sang froid and calm."
The boss of Standard and Poor's denied claims that any downgrade would be an attempt to sabotage France or the eurozone.
"If France loses its AAA, commentators will claim an American plot or a sabotage of Europe. It's pure fantasy," she said.