S&P Downgrades China's Credit Rating

Standard & Poor's lowered China's sovereign credit rating, joining a growing chorus of alarm over the nation's soaring debt levels despite government pledges to fend off financial risks.

In a Thursday statement, S&P Global Ratings said it downgraded China's rating to A+ from AA-, while changing its outlook to stable from negative. The action brings all the three major credit-rating firms in line in terms of their views of the creditworthiness of the world's second-largest economy. Fitch Ratings lowered China's rating in 2013, and Moody's Investors Service did so in May.

The downgrade of China's rating, the first such move by S&P since 1999, reflects its assessment that "a prolonged period of strong credit growth has increased China's economic and financial risks."

Market reaction to the move, announced after China's stock markets closed, was muted with little movement in the yuan, which edged down 0.30% against the U.S. dollar in mainland trading, reflecting the dollar's overnight strength following the latest Federal Reserve meeting.

Global investor sentiment toward China had shown signs of improvement in recent weeks. In the credit markets, the cost of default protection on Chinese sovereign debt earlier this month fell to its lowest levels in more than two years, according to data from IHS Markit.

"The timing for the S&P downgrade is a little bit surprising to me," said UBS economist Wang Tao.

Saumya Vaishampayan and Grace Zhu contributed to this article.

Write to Lingling Wei at lingling.wei@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 21, 2017 06:15 ET (10:15 GMT)