Greece default risk at 50:50 says Moody's

Anti-austerity protesters in Athens Anti-austerity protests continued over the weekend as Greece negotiated its latest loan drawdown

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Greece's credit rating has been cut again by rating agency Moody's.

Moody's cut its rating by three notches from B1 to Caa1 - just five notches short of default.

The new rating means Greece is 50% likely to default on or restructure its debts in the next five years, according to Moody's methodology.

Meanwhile, Athens is completing the negotiations for drawing down the fifth tranche of its 110bn euro bail-out from the EU and International Monetary Fund.

Last week, the chairman of the group of eurozone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that the IMF may not approve the latest cash advance unless Greece could convince them it will remain solvent over the next 12 months.

Press rumours

Announcing the latest downgrade, Moody's said: "The first trigger for today's downgrade is Moody's view that Greece is increasingly likely to fail to stabilise its debt ratios within the timeframe set by previously announced fiscal consolidation plans."

It maintained a negative outlook on the rating, implying that further downgrades may follow.

The Greek finance ministry blamed the rating cut on press rumours, claiming Moody's had failed to take account of its austerity commitments for the current year.

European policymakers, led by Mr Juncker, have been pushing the idea of a voluntary postponement of repayments on Greece's shorter-term debts, to be agreed with lenders.

The hope is that because such a "soft restructuring" or "debt reprofiling" would be voluntary, it would not qualify as a default in the opinion of the rating agencies.

The European Central Bank (ECB) has previously opposed any kind of debt restructuring for Greece, but on Wednesday an ECB member was cited by the Reuters news agency as saying a voluntary arrangement might be acceptable.

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