Robin Emmott and Brian Rohan
Reuters
January 14, 2012

European leaders promised on Saturday to speed up plans to strengthen spending rules and get a permanent bailout fund up and running as soon as possible, a day after U.S. agency S&P cut the ratings of several euro zone countries’ creditworthiness.

In a conference call with reporters and analysts after downgrading nine of the euro zone’s 17 countries, Standard & Poor’s said it saw continued risks from the debt crisis that has overshadowed Europe for the past two years and said the single currency area was heading towards recession.

It also warned that France, which suffered a downgrade to AA+ from the top-notch AAA, was at risk of further cuts if a recession further inflates its debt and budget deficit.

“The policy response at the European level has in our view not kept up with the rising challenges in the euro zone,” S&P credit analyst Moritz Kraemer said on the call, forecasting a 40 percent chance of euro zone gross domestic product contracting by up to 1.5 percent in 2012.

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