Eurozone crisis: ratings agency downgrades nine countries

Standard & Poor's deals heavy blow to French economy by removing AAA credit rating.

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Fiscal austerity alone will not solve the Eurozone crisis, according to rating agency Standard & Poor's, which carried out a mass downgrading on Friday night.

France lost its AAA rating -- the highest possible -- and moved to AA+, as did Austria, while Portugal and Cyprus were downgraded to junk status. Italy, Spain, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia also saw their ratings cut.

S&P said that its decision reflected the fact that austerity "risks becoming self-defeating". Markets fell on the news, with the FTSE closing 26 points down at 5636.

Britain still has a triple-A rating from Standard & Poor's, which has caused some adverse comment by Eurozone politicians. Michael Fuchs, deputy leader of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat party, said: "Standard and Poor's must stop playing politics. Why doesn't it act on the highly indebted United States or highly indebted Britain?"

The decision will cause a headache for French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running for re-election this year. Today's Libération had some fun at his expense (click here for their front page).

Yesterday's Guardian live blog provides a helpful summary of all the major developments, while Samira Shackle blogged in December about S&P's threat to downgrade all 15 eurozone countries, and why that matters.

Helen Lewis is a former deputy editor of the New Statesman. Her history of feminism, Difficult Women, will be published in February 2020.