Fitch cuts ratings on 8 major banks

NEW YORK (AP) — Fitch Ratings on Thursday downgraded its viability ratings on eight of the world’s biggest banks, citing increased challenges facing the banking sector due to weak economic growth and heightened regulation.

The firm lowered its viability ratings for Bank of America Corp., Barclays PLC, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse AG, Deutsche Bank AG, The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and Societe Generale.

Bank of America’s viability rating was lowered to “bbb,” which Fitch says denotes “good” prospects for ongoing viability. It had been “a-.” The other banks have new ratings of “a-,” “a,” or “a+,” a range denoting “strong” prospects for ongoing viability, according to Fitch.

It also downgraded its long-term issuer-default rating for most of the banks: Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs. The ratings still remain well into investment grade, at “A” or “A+” following the downgrades.

Fitch affirmed its long-term issuer-default ratings for Morgan Stanley, Society Generale and UBS AG.

In addition, it affirmed UBS’ viability rating at “a-.”

The rating changes follow a review by Fitch of large banks.

Fitch said that the group of large global banks is particularly sensitive to the challenges that financial markets face, including economic jolts and regulatory changes.

While the large banks have made significant progress it building up capital and liquidity to hedge against market challenges, Fitch said it believes the lenders remain vulnerable to market turmoil, especially during periods of financial stress.

The banks’ complex business models make it more difficult to assess the size of losses that could emerge from unexpected events, Fitch said.

The firm anticipates market conditions will ease over time, but expects market volatility to remain elevated above historical averages. It also sees economic growth in development markets remaining subdued.

Even so, Fitch said it believes that the large global banks are in a much better position today to deal with difficult market conditions than in 2008, when the financial crisis hit.

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