Standard and Poor's says Australian AAA rating safe
Australia’s top triple-A rating appears secure despite high household debt and banks’ high reliance on foreign funding, Standard & Poor’s said on Wednesday.
The ratings agency said Australia’s economic resilience, which saw it dodge recession during the global financial crisis, was not just down to luck and its abundant mineral and energy resources.
While the economy had benefited substantially from mining, S&P said Australia had some robust credit fundamentals which supported its top-notch rating (unsolicited credit ratings AAA/Stable/A-1+).
These include a wealthy and open economy, strong institutions, and low public debt, it said.
But its report “Australia has more than luck to endure downside risks” noted the nation was not without some vulnerabilities, including any sharp slowdown in major trading partner China or a change in foreign investor sentiment.
“The economy holds a large amount of offshore debt, households retain substantial debt because of high house prices, and its banks are reliant on foreign investor funding,” S&P Associate Director Craig Michaels said.
“Although these weaknesses may pressure the sovereign ratings in a downside scenario, they appear to be largely mitigated for now.”
The ratings agency said Australia stood out among its AAA peers for its weak external position, the result of persistent current account deficits over a number of decades.
It also said that soaring house prices throughout the 1990s and 2000s had created high household indebtedness.
But it said it expected that Australia’s economic growth will remain close to trend over coming years.
“Australia’s wealthy and open economy withstood the global financial crisis better than most other developed economies, and we expect public debt to peak at a low level before gradually declining,” Michaels said.