France calls for probes into S&P error

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France called for European and national probes into the mistaken release Thursday by Standard and Poor's of information that it had downgraded France's top "AAA" credit rating.

French Finance Minister Francois Barion "asked the competent regulators to investigate the causes and the resulting consequences of this mistake," the ministry said in a statement.

The European Securities and Markets Authority and France's Financial Markets Authority are responsible for supervising markets and ratings agencies.

Ratings agency Standard and Poor's admitted earlier Thursday that it had mistakenly announced to some clients a downgrade of France's top "AAA" credit rating, amid speculation of just such a move.

"As a result of a technical error, a message was automatically disseminated today to some subscribers of S&P's Global Credit Portal suggesting that France's credit rating had been changed," S&P said in a statement.

"This is not the case: the ratings on Republic of France remain 'AAA/A-1+' with a stable outlook and this incident is not related to any ratings surveillance activity. We are investigating the cause of the error."

The agency's embarrassing error came as the spread between France's and Germany's 10-year government bond rates hit new record highs, in a sign of markets' failing confidence in non-German eurozone debt.

© 2011 AFP

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