BY ERIC LAM, POSTMEDIA NEWS JULY 28, 2011
As the debt spectacle continues in Washington, Moody’s Investor Service renewed Canada’s AAA credit rating on Thursday.
While all eyes are on the United States as it tries to hammer out a deal to raise its borrowing limit by Aug. 2, avoid a debt default and a possible debt downgrade, Canada sailed through its annual credit checkup with flying colours.
Moody’s said the country’s high resiliency, government financial strength and low susceptibility to risk were key to the top marks.
Here’s a breakdown of the reasons why Moody’s says Canada deserves the highest possible credit rating:
Economic strength: Very high.
Canada missed the worst of the financial crisis because of the financial strength of its banks and only a mild downturn in the housing market.
The country had a stronger rebound from the recession, with a 3.2-per-cent rise in gross domestic product, compared with 2.9 per cent south of the border. Moody’s said monetary policy and Ottawa’s stimulus program helped the recovery.
There are important differences between the Canadian and U.S. economies that affected Moody’s evaluation of Canada’s strength, including the fact that trade in goods and services makes up more than half of Canada’s GDP, compared with less than one- third in the U.S. This points to a greater degree of openness in the economy, it said.
Canada also has lower federal debt and a stronger banking system and housing market, as well as a higher domestic saving rate, resulting in less reliance on external financial markets.
Institutional strength: Very high.
Fiscal discipline at the Bank of Canada, inflation control, government effectiveness and rule of law all rank highly.
Economic and fiscal policies have remained stable for the past 15 years under Liberal and Conservative governments. Some tax differences exist, but the overall goal of fiscal balance and declining debt has been a constant.
While the proportion of total government debt credited to provincial, territorial and local governments is the highest among major countries, and Moody’s judges the risk of the federal government having to step in to assist these governments with their debt payments as high, it said local ratings indicate little risk that such assistance would actually be needed.
Government financial strength: Very high.
This evaluation is based on a well-established pattern of budget surpluses at the federal level, except during exceptional circumstances such as the financial crisis, leading to declining government debt and debt ratios since the 1990s.
Susceptibility to event risk: Low.
The most important risks are related to the housing market and to separatism in Quebec, although the probability of either affecting Canada’s rating is quite low.
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