Fitch Ratings has revised the outlook on Japan’s sovereign rating from stable to negative while keeping the rating itself unchanged, following a similar move last month by S&P Global Ratings.
“The coronavirus pandemic has caused a sharp economic contraction in Japan, despite the country’s early success in containing the virus,” Fitch said in a statement Wednesday. “Sharply wider fiscal deficits in 2020 and 2021, as we project, will add significantly to Japan’s public debt, which even before the pandemic was the highest among Fitch-rated sovereigns as a share of GDP.”
The credit ratings firm affirmed the nation’s A rating for long-term debt, but sounded alarms over recently rising COVID-19 case numbers and the possibility of further containment measures and risks to the economic outlook.
Tokyo set a record for new cases daily last week, prompting Gov. Yuriko Koike to ask residents to stay home over last week’s long holiday weekend.
Japan has pushed up its tally of economic measures to combat the virus impact to around $2 trillion (¥210 trillion), roughly 40 percent of the size of its economy.
Fitch projects Japan’s economy will contract by 5 percent for the full year in 2020, before rebounding to 3.2 percent growth next year. But the firm didn’t expect GDP to return to pre-pandemic levels until the fourth quarter of 2021.
The ratings report had little impact on the yen, which was trading at around 105.10 per dollar Wednesday morning in Tokyo.
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