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      Scope affirms the USA's ratings at AA, Outlook Stable

      UST 3.000 02/15/47 UST 3.625 08/15/43 UST 5.375 02/15/31 UST 2.750 08/15/47 UST 0.750 02/15/42 UST 2.500 02/15/45 UST 2.125 02/15/40 UST 2.750 11/15/42 UST 0.625 02/15/43 UST 1.750 01/15/28 UST 5.250 11/15/28 UST 2.500 01/15/29 UST 2.875 08/15/45 UST 3.000 11/15/45 UST 2.375 01/15/27 UST 4.750 02/15/41 UST 3.625 04/15/28 UST 3.875 08/15/40 UST 3.000 05/15/47 UST 4.250 05/15/39 UST 6.125 08/15/29 UST 6.625 02/15/27 UST 2.250 08/15/46 UST 4.250 11/15/40 UST 3.125 08/15/44 UST 6.875 08/15/25 UST 3.125 11/15/41 UST 2.125 02/15/41 UST 3.000 05/15/42 UST 2.000 01/15/26 UST 2.875 05/15/43 UST 1.000 02/15/46 UST 4.375 05/15/41 UST 3.125 02/15/43 UST 3.000 05/15/45 UST 4.625 02/15/40 UST 5.500 08/15/28 UST 3.625 02/15/44 UST 7.500 11/15/24 UST 4.500 08/15/39 UST 4.750 02/15/37 UST 3.375 05/15/44 UST 4.375 05/15/40 UST 4.375 02/15/38 UST 3.000 11/15/44 UST 3.500 02/15/39 UST 4.500 02/15/36 UST 2.500 02/15/46 UST 3.875 04/15/29 UST 2.875 11/15/46 UST 0.875 02/15/47 UST 2.375 01/15/25 UST 6.375 08/15/27 UST 0.750 02/15/45 UST 6.250 05/15/30 UST 6.000 02/15/26 UST 5.250 02/15/29 UST 3.750 11/15/43 UST 1.375 02/15/44 UST 3.750 08/15/41 UST 6.750 08/15/26 UST 4.375 11/15/39 UST 6.125 11/15/27 UST 3.375 04/15/32 UST 2.500 05/15/46 UST 4.500 05/15/38 UST 3.125 02/15/42 UST 2.750 08/15/42 UST 6.500 11/15/26 UST 5.000 05/15/37 UST 7.625 02/15/25 UST 0.125 07/15/26 UST 2.375 05/15/27 UST 1.500 08/15/26 UST 1.625 05/15/26 UST 2.000 12/31/21 UST 0.625 01/15/26 UST 2.000 11/15/26 UST 2.125 05/15/25 UST 1.625 02/15/26 UST 2.250 08/15/27 UST 2.000 08/15/25 UST 0.375 01/15/27 UST 2.250 02/15/27 UST 0.125 07/15/24 UST 2.250 11/15/24 UST 2.125 07/31/24 UST 1.500 01/31/22 UST 0.125 01/15/22 UST 1.750 11/30/21 UST 1.875 08/31/24 UST 2.125 09/30/24 UST 2.000 06/30/24 UST 1.875 11/30/21 UST 2.125 12/31/21 UST 0.375 07/15/27 UST 0.375 07/15/25 UST 1.875 01/31/22 UST 2.250 11/15/25 UST 2.375 08/15/24 UST 2.000 02/15/25 UST 0.250 01/15/25 UST 2.750 02/15/28 UST 3.000 02/15/48 UST 2.750 11/15/47 UST 2.625 03/31/25 UST 2.250 11/15/27 UST 2.750 02/28/25 UST 0.500 01/15/28 UST 1.000 02/15/48 UST 2.500 01/31/25 UST 2.250 12/31/24 UST 2.250 10/31/24 UST 2.125 11/30/24 UST 2.875 04/30/25 UST 3.125 05/15/48 UST 2.875 05/15/28 UST 2.875 05/31/25 UST 2.750 06/30/25 UST 0.750 07/15/28 UST 2.875 07/31/25 UST 2.875 08/15/28 UST 3.000 08/15/48 UST 2.750 08/31/25 UST 3.000 09/30/25 UST 3.000 10/31/25 UST 3.375 11/15/48 UST 3.125 11/15/28 UST 2.875 11/30/25 UST 2.625 12/15/21 UST 2.625 12/31/25 UST 2.500 01/15/22 UST 0.875 01/15/29 UST 2.625 01/31/26 UST 2.625 02/15/29 UST 3.000 02/15/49 UST 1.000 02/15/49 UST 2.500 02/28/26 UST 2.250 03/31/26 UST 2.375 04/30/26 UST 2.875 05/15/49 UST 2.375 05/15/29 UST 2.125 05/31/26 UST 1.750 06/30/24 UST 1.875 06/30/26 UST 1.875 07/31/26 UST 0.250 07/15/29 UST 1.750 07/31/24 UST 2.250 08/15/49 UST 1.625 08/15/29 UST 1.375 08/31/26 UST 1.250 08/31/24 UST 1.500 09/30/24 UST 1.625 09/30/26 UST 1.625 10/31/26 UST 0.125 10/15/24 UST 1.500 10/31/24 UST 2.375 11/15/49 UST 1.750 11/15/29 UST 1.500 11/30/21 UST 1.625 11/30/26 UST 1.500 11/30/24 UST 0.375 09/30/27 UST 0.250 09/30/25 UST 0.250 08/31/25 UST 0.500 08/31/27 UST 1.125 08/15/40 UST 0.625 08/15/30 UST 1.375 08/15/50 UST 0.250 07/31/25 UST 0.375 07/31/27 UST 0.125 07/15/30 UST 0.250 06/30/25 UST 0.500 06/30/27 UST 0.250 05/31/25 UST 0.500 05/31/27 UST 1.125 05/15/40 UST 1.250 05/15/50 UST 0.625 05/15/30 UST 0.125 04/15/25 UST 0.375 04/30/25 UST 0.500 04/30/27 UST 0.625 03/31/27 UST 0.500 03/31/25 UST 1.125 02/28/27 UST 1.125 02/28/25 UST 0.250 02/15/50 UST 1.500 02/15/30 UST 2.000 02/15/50 UST 1.375 01/31/22 UST 0.125 01/15/30 UST 1.375 01/31/25 UST 1.500 01/31/27 UST 0.254 01/31/22 FRN UST 1.750 12/31/26 UST 1.750 12/31/24 UST 1.625 12/31/21 UST 0.500 10/31/27 UST 0.375 11/30/25 UST 0.625 11/30/27 UST 1.375 11/15/40 UST 0.875 11/15/30 UST 0.125 10/15/25 UST 0.250 10/31/25 UST 1.625 11/15/50 UST 0.625 12/31/27 UST 0.375 12/31/25 UST 0.375 01/31/26 UST 1.125 02/15/31 UST 1.875 02/15/41 When Iss UST 1.875 02/15/51 UST 0.125 01/15/31 UST 0.750 01/31/28 UST 0.125 02/15/51 When Iss UST 0.500 02/28/26 UST 1.125 02/29/28 UST 0.750 03/31/26 When Iss UST 1.250 03/31/28 When Iss UST 1.250 04/30/28 UST 0.125 04/15/26 UST 0.750 04/30/26 UST 1.500 05/15/31 When Iss UST 2.250 05/15/51 When Iss UST 1.250 05/31/28 UST 0.750 05/31/26 UST 2.250 05/15/41 UST 0.375 07/15/24 When Iss UST 0.875 06/30/26 UST 1.250 06/30/28 UST 0.625 07/31/26 UST 2.000 08/15/51 UST 0.375 08/15/24 UST 1.250 08/15/31 UST 1.000 07/31/28 UST 0.750 08/31/26 UST 0.375 09/15/24 UST 1.250 09/30/28 UST 0.875 09/30/26 UST 1.125 08/31/28 UST 1.750 08/15/41 UST 0.125 07/15/31 UST 0.125 10/15/26 UST 1.375 10/31/28 UST 1.125 10/31/26 UST 0.625 11/15/24 When Iss UST 1.875 11/15/51 When Iss UST 1.500 11/15/31 When Iss UST 1.000 12/15/24 UST 2.000 11/15/41 UST 1.500 11/30/28 UST 1.250 11/30/26 UST 1.375 12/31/28 UST 1.250 12/31/26 UST 1.125 01/15/25 UST 1.750 01/31/29 UST 0.125 01/15/32 UST 2.375 02/15/42 UST 1.875 02/28/27 UST 0.125 02/15/52 UST 1.500 02/15/25 UST 1.875 02/28/29 UST 1.875 02/15/32 UST 2.250 02/15/52 UST 2.500 03/31/27 UST 1.750 03/15/25 UST 2.375 03/31/29 UST 0.125 04/15/27 UST 2.875 04/30/29 UST 2.750 04/30/27 UST 2.625 04/15/25 UST 2.750 05/31/29 UST 2.875 05/15/32 UST 2.625 05/31/27 UST 2.750 05/15/25 UST 3.250 05/15/42 UST 2.875 05/15/52 UST 2.875 06/15/25 UST 3.000 07/15/25 UST 3.250 06/30/27 UST 3.000 06/30/24 UST 3.250 06/30/29 UST 3.375 08/15/42 UST 3.000 07/31/24 UST 3.125 08/15/25 UST 3.000 08/15/52 UST 4.125 09/30/27 UST 4.250 09/30/24 UST 3.500 09/15/25 UST 2.750 08/15/32 UST 2.625 07/31/29 UST 3.125 08/31/29 UST 3.250 08/31/24 UST 3.405 07/31/24 FRN UST 0.625 07/15/32 UST 2.750 07/31/27 UST 3.125 08/31/27 UST 3.875 09/30/29
      FRIDAY, 26/11/2021 - Scope Ratings GmbH
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      Scope affirms the USA's ratings at AA, Outlook Stable

      A large, wealthy economy, dollar’s status as the leading international reserve currency and deep capital markets are credit strengths. Structural increase of public debt, high fiscal deficits and risk connected with the debt ceiling are credit challenges.

      For the rating report, click here.

      Rating action

      Scope Ratings GmbH (Scope) today affirms the long-term local- and foreign-currency issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings of the United States of AA, with Outlooks Stable. The Agency has affirmed the short-term issuer ratings of the United States at S-1+ in local- and foreign-currency, Outlooks Stable.

      Summary and Outlook

      The affirmation of the US’ credit ratings at the AA level reflects the sovereign’s multiple credit strengths, including a wealthy, competitive and diversified economy, the largest economy globally in nominal terms, which has displayed resilience over the Covid-19 crisis, reflected in a comparatively moderate contraction of output in 2020, followed by recovery to pre-crisis output by 2Q-2021. In addition, the US benefits from the dollar’s role as the preeminent international reserve currency, bringing unrivalled strengths as regards Treasury’s financing flexibility, and reducing longer-run debt sustainability risk arising from more elevated government debt than many countries under the same rating class. The US, in addition, benefits from sound, transparent and accountable economic institutions, including a strong central bank in the Federal Reserve supporting macroeconomic and price stability, alongside one of the most advanced financial systems. Finally, risk surrounding the US’ global leadership and a period of heightened risk from trade disputes have eased under the Joseph R. Biden administration, which, together with renewed commitment to addressing climate change challenges, supports Scope’s evaluation of the United States as concerns the sovereign’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics.

      Challenges affecting the ratings include the weakening of government finances, with the debt stock and annual gross financing requirements expected to remain substantively more elevated after this Covid-19 crisis than pre-crisis, as significant deficits keep the US’ public debt ratio elevated in the medium run and on an increasing trajectory over the long run. Elevated contingent liabilities pose longer-term fiscal challenges and are an additional risk as concerns the debt trajectory.

      In addition, the US ratings are challenged via heightened risk associated with misuse of the debt-ceiling instrument, with rising political polarisation and more elevated federal deficits over forthcoming years heightening risk around debt-ceiling crises. The debt ceiling has resulted in phases of severe debt repayment difficulties for the government and dependence upon last-minute congressional action to ensure repayment of the US’ debt in full and on time.

      Further credit challenges include longer-run governance risk associated with a divided nation, as well as economic implications of an ageing population and slowing population growth. Financial-stability risk centres upon bubbly financial-asset markets as the central bank withdraws accommodation. Vulnerabilities in the external sector reflect a credit challenge.

      The Stable Outlook reflects Scope’s opinion that risks to the credit ratings over the next 12 to 18 months are balanced.

      The ratings/Outlooks could be downgraded in the event of, individually or collectively: i) a further weakening in the outlook of public finances, such as via anticipation of further significant increases in the government debt ratio; ii) inappropriate use of the debt-limit instrument, raising likelihood of technical default; iii) weakening in governance, with negative ramifications for effectiveness of government in management of the economy and resolution of crises; and/or iv) evidence of a significantly reduced role of the US dollar as global reserve currency, leading to attenuated global demand for US treasuries.

      Conversely, the ratings/Outlooks could be upgraded if policy changes result in: i) meaningful reform improving the nation’s fiscal policy framework such as removal of the debt limit and replacement with alternative fiscal safeguards, enforcing prudent fiscal policy making; ii) reforms that improve the potential growth outlook, placing the public debt ratio on a sustained declining trajectory; and/or iii) improvements of governance and/or reduction of political polarisation improve effectiveness of economic policy making.

      Rating rationale

      Firstly, the US’ AA credit ratings are challenged via the weakening of the public finance outlook, with general government debt and annual gross financing needs expected to remain more elevated after this Covid-19 crisis than before the crisis, reflecting a general government debt ratio expected on an upward trajectory over a long-run horizon. Since 2020, economic effects of the Covid-19 crisis on cyclical revenue attrition coupled with significant federal economic support required resulted in double-digit budget deficits, pushing the debt ratio to around 134% by the end of 2021.

      This significant fiscal response has been crucial in supporting the economic recovery since mid-2020, with output returning to pre-pandemic levels by 2021 and expected to reach output adjusted for pre-crisis trend growth rates by 2022. At the same time, continued large deficits during early recovery – with the United States closing an output gap and unemployment already edging near longer-run trend levels (estimated by the Federal Reserve as around 4%), points to, at this stage, an increasing pro-cyclicality of deficit spending, risking reduced returns for incremental expenditure and debt accrued as fiscal multipliers normalise with a growing economy. Scope expects a headline general government deficit of 11.3% of GDP in 2021, remaining elevated after a 14.9% deficit in 2020. An outlook regarding recovery and tapering of federal support supports improvement of the government budget balance over future years, although net borrowing is expected to remain elevated, staying above 5% of GDP annually through a forecast horizon to 2026.

      After USD 868bn of economic support (3.8% of 2021 GDP) implemented towards the end of last year under the previous administration, the Biden government signed into law in March 2021 the American Rescue Plan, an initial component of a three-pillar recovery programme, with spending of USD 1.8trn (8.1% of 2021 GDP). The second part of the recovery plan was approved earlier this month: the American Jobs Plan, an infrastructure investment programme of an estimated USD 1.2trn – embedding around USD 550bn of fresh expenditure above baseline levels over a five-year horizon (2.0% of average 2022-26 GDP). The American Jobs Plan allocates new monies to investment in areas such as transportation, broadband and utilities. And the concluding element (under review in Congress) reflects an ambitious USD 1.75trn social safety net and climate bill suggested as being spent over 10 years, targeting historic investment in early childhood education and childcare, public healthcare for pensioners, extending work permits to undocumented immigrants and programmes to counter climate change – seeking overhaul of significant segments of the economy.

      The recovery plan reflects a large-scale lift as regards public investment, addressing long-standing weaknesses in the US infrastructure and social system, and bolstering an outlook as regards productivity growth, alongside lifting the short-run economic recovery. At the same time, recovery plan measures combine with recurrent budgetary measures in contributing to expectation of continued sizeable fiscal deficits over forthcoming years, likely to permanently raise debt even recognising partially offsetting effects of measures from higher economic growth and higher short-run inflation. After increasing over 25pps in 2020, reaching 133.9% of GDP last year, the US government debt-to-GDP ratio is projected remaining initially comparatively unchanged through 2026, ending a forecast horizon at just above 138% – aided by assumed above-potential growth of an average of 2.5% over 2022-26 and above-average inflation. However, longer-run projections of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget point to a sharper rise in the debt ratio starting around 2025 reaching fresh records.1 Anticipated longer-run rise of the debt ratio even under optimistic CBO assumptions of continued growth over a decade through 2031 is consistent with Scope’s assumption that the US’ debt ratio remains on an increasing structural trajectory, recognising expected much more significant discrete jumps in the debt ratio during future downturns. This high and rising stock of government debt – with low likelihood of reverse-ability of debt accrued in crisis – represents a ratings challenge.

      Furthermore, annual government gross financing needs are seen staying high, around or above 30% of GDP per year over 2022-26, moderating from an above 50% level expected in 2021 but remaining significantly above that of sovereign peers. This is partly a reflection of a comparatively low average maturity of treasury securities of just above 5 years, raising an annual redemption volume and increasing Treasury’s sensitivity to changes in interest rates. In addition, contingent liabilities constitute a significant fiscal burden in the long run. The IMF estimates a net present value of healthcare (152%) and pensions (30%) spending changes of an aggregate 183% of GDP over 2020-50, the most significant rise projected of any advanced economy globally.2

      Secondly, the ratings are stressed by meaningful longer-term risk associated with misuse of the debt-ceiling instrument, with the United States government facing risk during repeated debt-ceiling episodes under conditions of heightened political partisanship alongside more elevated financing requirements today than historically. This risk may increase after 2022 mid-term elections should Democrats lose control of Congress – resulting in potential requirement for negotiation of fraught bipartisan solution(s) to raise or suspend the ceiling from January 2023.

      A last-minute stopgap USD 480bn raising of the debt limit in October 2021 along party-line voting reintroduced capacity to issue debt until around 15 December 2021. The Bipartisan Policy Center estimates that, given capacity to deploy extraordinary measures after borrowing limitations are reached, a new date on which Treasury faces either delaying payments for activities or default on debt obligations lies between mid-December and early February 2022 – with this timetable advanced due to a transfer related to the recently-approved infrastructure investment bill.3 While Democrats target for any resolution of the coming debt ceiling to be bipartisan, Republicans are seeking to compel Democrats to address the debt limit along party lines via a complex reconciliation process. Scope expects the US government to raise or suspend the debt ceiling over the coming month(s), avoiding a sovereign credit default.

      Increasing political polarisation and attenuated capacity to locate bipartisan compromise have increased risk around debt-ceiling dates compared with the past. Scope anticipates that such risk may further increase after November 2022 mid-term elections, should Democrats lose control of the House of Representatives and/or the Senate. Experiences of 2011 and 2013 debt-ceiling crises demonstrate that debt-ceiling risks were near heights when a Democrat President faced a divided or Republican-led Congress – and was, as such, absent recourse to a party-line congressional vote to raise (the debt ceiling). In addition, federal deficits are expected to remain higher than “normal” levels over the coming years – curtailing space of time the US Treasury has for emergency action in meeting government spending obligations during crises. Finally, close proximity of a coming debt ceiling debate to the preceding debt-limit crisis of autumn 2021 has resulted in Treasury’s cash reserves having not had adequate duration to fully recover – amounting to USD 0.2trn as of 15 November, compared with USD 1.6trn as of February 2021 – reducing room for manoeuvre amid volatile revenue and expenditure flows.

      The United States’ AA credit ratings also consider vulnerabilities in governance compared with the United States’ sovereign peers. The failure of the former president to recognise an election outcome and undermining of US democratic institutions, rule of law and the nation’s international alliances hold no recent parallels across Scope’s very highly rated sovereigns. The former President has consolidated leadership within the Republican Party and has held open an option of running for president in 2024 elections – polling ahead of the current incumbent, presenting risk on the institutional outlook. Before the next presidential elections, polarised political conditions could see heightened political deadlock after 2022 congressional elections, supporting a less deliberative legislative process, raising political brinkmanship and impeding the government’s ability to further address medium-run economic and fiscal challenges. Frequent government shutdown risk, with a next deadline forthcoming on 3 December, also raise contingent risk especially when occurring concurrently with debt-ceiling crises.

      A comparatively weak external sector is a ratings challenge, with a current account deficit having increased to 3.3% of GDP during the year to Q2 2021, from 2.1% in the year to Q1 2020, amid a strong rebound in domestic demand. This current account imbalance is significantly driven by increases in the fiscal deficit, with the current account expected to remain in a deficit of >3% until 2024. The net international investment liability position has increased to 71% of GDP in Q2 2021, from 39% at end-2017.

      Scope estimates strong growth of output this year, of 5.5%, before moderating to 3.5% in 2022 and gradually converging thereafter in direction of an estimated rate of potential growth of 2%, the latter raised by Scope from a previous estimate of potential of 1.9% and comparing favourably against potential growth of peers such as the United Kingdom (rated AA), France (AA) and Belgium (AA-). The United States holds a competitive and innovative economy: real labour productivity per hour worked is projected this year around 39% higher than 2000 levels, around twice gains observed over the same duration of time in France, Belgium or the United Kingdom. At the same time, productivity growth slowed pre-crisis. Factors that support productivity growth and contributed to the upside revision of the United States’ rate of growth potential include the infrastructure investment programme and countering of social crises outlined under the president’s agenda. Longer-term scarring due to this Covid-19 crisis is expected to, moreover, be comparatively modest in case of the United States (circa 1% of GDP).4 As a contravening force, a demographic dividend – while still comparing favourably against that of slightly shrinking working-age populaces of France and Belgium – has attenuated in strength as a driver of trend growth, with the American working-age population set to increase around 0.1% per year over 2022-26, under a 0.4% rate of the last decade.

      Outstanding risk to the economic outlook is presented via supply chain disruption, increasing inflation and renewed rise of Covid-19 cases with (only) 58% of the population fully vaccinated. Core personal consumption expenditure inflation stood at 4.1% YoY as of October, with the Federal Reserve expecting this preferred gauge of inflation to average 3.7% over 2021 but recede to 2.3% by 2022 and 2.2% in 2023. Scope considers there to be upside risk to the Federal Reserve’s inflation projections. An adjustment to a “flexible average inflation targeting” central-banking approach alongside broadened definition of a maximum employment central-bank objective also support somewhat higher inflation. In response to inflation pressure, the Federal Reserve opted to start a taper of asset purchases by USD 10bn for treasury securities and USD 5bn for agency mortgage-backed securities each month starting late this month from a previous aggregate purchase rate of at least USD 120bn monthly, fully phasing out bond purchases by mid-next year.5 There is current contemplation for accelerating this timetable for phasing out purchases. Scope expects an initial rate hike this cycle before the end of 2022. As the US appropriately tightens monetary policy, there is risk of crystallisation of vulnerabilities, however, in bubbly financial-asset markets as well as in the corporate debt market (with an aggregate stock of corporate debt having risen to 85.4% of GDP as of Q1 2021, from 75.9% before the crisis) after crisis borrowing elevated leverage ratios.

      Nevertheless, affirmation of the United States’ AA credit ratings reflects important credit strengths.

      The nation benefits from a large and diversified economy that is the world’s largest under nominal size (USD 23trn in 2021) – enhancing resilience during global shocks, with a high level of wealth (GDP per capita of USD 69,375 – among the highest globally), and global leadership in areas such as science, technology and innovation. Flexibility of labour and product markets, a dynamic, entrepreneurial business culture and a skilled labour force are credit strengths. In 2020, the US economy contracted 3.4%, less severe than peer economies such as that of the UK, France and Belgium. A robust recovery since has seen improving labour markets, with the unemployment rate easing to 4.6% by October 2021, from a peak of just under 15% as of April 2020 – Scope expects convergence of unemployment in direction of long-run trend levels of 4% by 2022.

      The AA ratings are furthermore anchored by an independent monetary policy and the dollar’s unparalleled global reserve currency status during this post-war era, which enables the nation to run fiscal and current-account deficits with comparatively more limited concern with respect to long-run public and/or external debt sustainability. Based on IMF data6, around 59.2% of the globe’s foreign-exchange reserves were held in dollar as of Q2 2021, trailed (distantly) by the euro (20.5%), yen (5.8%) and pound sterling (4.8%); 2.6% was owned in renminbi. However, the dollar share has nevertheless seen a degree of gradual decline from an above 70% share as of the early 2000s – as long-run challengers to dollar hegemony have risen amid a degree of slow fracturing over past years in the multilateral, dollar-based order. On basis of alternative metrics, the share of the US dollar remains similarly by some distance the most significant, such as with respect to currency denomination of outstanding international debt securities (63%, with the euro next with around 23%), outstanding international loans (53%, with the euro around 26%) and international deposits (55%, with euro around 25%). This global reserve-currency status is unique among the sovereigns rated by Scope and captured vis-à-vis a three-notch upside reserve-currency adjustment to the United States’ indicative credit rating underlying the AA ratings assigned. The safe-haven status of the dollar presents the US Treasury with unrivalled access to international debt capital markets, including, importantly, during periods of crisis. Scope sees the dollar’s status as the leading global reserve currency as unlikely to be meaningfully challenged over the foreseeable future, even acknowledging longer-term risks.

      Finally, the US’ AA ratings are supported by very strong monetary and financial supervisory institutions, and one of the world’s most advanced financial systems and deep capital markets. Banks are soundly positioned, with tier 1 capital ratios of 14.9% of risk-weighted assets as of Q2 2021, strengthening from 13.7% as of Q4 2019 pre-crisis and 10.7% in Q1 2009. Strong asset quality is reflected in non-performing loans of under 1% of total loans – little changed since the crisis. According to the Federal Reserve’s annual stress examination in 2021, all 23 large banks’ capitalisations were displayed as being resilient under a scenario of severe global recession with substantial stress in commercial real estate and corporate debt markets – with capital ratios remaining above double their minimum requirements under this stressed case.7 Banking-sector profitability has reached levels from before the pandemic, although compressed interest margins present a constraint. Funding risks are limited, as banks rely only moderately upon short-run wholesale funding and retain liquidity coverage ratios of more than double ratios pre-pandemic – although structural vulnerabilities persist in some types of money market funds as well as in bond and bank loan mutual funds.8

      Core Variable Scorecard (CVS) and Qualitative Scorecard (QS)

      Scope’s Core Variable Scorecard (CVS), which is based on the relative rankings of key sovereign credit fundamentals, provides an indicative rating of ‘a-’ as regards the United States of America. The country receives a three-notch upside adjustment for the US dollar’s status as the leading global reserve currency under the methodology’s reserve-currency adjustment. A resulting ‘aa-’ indicative rating can be adjusted, under a next step, via the Qualitative Scorecard (QS) by up to three notches depending on the size of relative qualitative credit strengths or weaknesses versus a ‘aa-’ indicative peer group of countries.

      For the United States, ‘monetary policy framework’, ‘macro-economic stability and sustainability’, ‘debt profile and market access’, ‘current account resilience’, ‘external debt structure’ and ‘banking sector oversight’ have been identified as relative credit strengths. Conversely, ‘fiscal policy framework’, ‘debt sustainability’, ‘social risks’ and ‘institutional and political risks’ are identified as relative credit weaknesses under the QS.

      On aggregate, the QS generates a one-notch net upside adjustment and indicates AA long-term credit ratings for the United States.

      A rating committee has discussed and confirmed these results.

      Factoring of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG)

      Scope explicitly factors in ESG sustainability issues during its ratings process via the sovereign methodology’s stand-alone ESG sovereign risk pillar, with a 20% weighting under the quantitative model (CVS) and in the qualitative overlay (QS).

      Under governance-related factors captured via the CVS, the US maintains good scores on average across six World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGIs), although weaker than the performance of main sovereign peers – especially on a category of political stability and absence of violence/terrorism. The United States’ scores have weakened across the six WGIs since 2010. The US benefits nevertheless from resilient democratic institutions and checks and balances protecting accountability and transparency. At the same time, increasing political polarisation growingly challenges capacity as regards political compromise, departing from America’s democratic traditions, raising political brinkmanship and impeding the government’s capacity to address economic and fiscal challenges. With Democrats presently in control of the Presidency and Congress, the government currently has an opportunity to pursue an agenda with limited cooperation from the opposition. However, this could easily change after next year’s elections, as Republicans would require only minor gains to take control of the House of Representatives and/or Senate, potentially resulting in policy gridlock before 2024 elections. The failure of the former president to recognise the outcome of the 2020 election and undermining of US democratic norms and the nation’s global alliances hold no recent parallels across highly rated sovereigns. Redrawing of congressional maps after a 2020 Census further reducing a number of competitive congressional districts undermines the electoral process, curtails the representativeness of the House and makes congressmen beholden to party bases. Under the Biden administration, risks associated with geopolitical conflict – including after exit from a two-decade war in Afghanistan – have somewhat receded as the government has repaired alliances, while potential risk from trade disputes has eased. Under the QS, Scope assesses ‘governance risks’ of the United States as ‘weak’ against an indicative peer group of sovereign states.

      Credit factors related to social criteria are similarly captured under Scope’s CVS quantitative model and QS analyst overlay. In the CVS, the US performs weakly on income inequality, as measured via the income share of the 20% of the population with the highest incomes against that received by the 20% of the population with the lowest income. However, CVS marks on labour force participation are aligned with peers’ – even though labour force participation of the 25-54 age group remains well under pre-crisis levels at 81.7% as of October 2021 vs 83% in January 2020. The US receives a weak score within the CVS on its old-age dependency ratio, although nevertheless outperforming performance of peers and most advanced economies. In the QS, Scope assigns an evaluation of the United States’ ‘social risks’ as ‘weak’, reflecting weakened labour force participation since the crisis, polarised distributions of income and wealth, disappointing tertiary-education outcomes, erosion of social-economic mobility, long-standing racial disparity alongside high poverty. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses within the US healthcare system, which is the most expensive in the world and presents unequal access to and quality of care. Despite the high cost of healthcare, healthy life expectancy in the United States has lagged that of most advanced economies. A Covid-19 inoculation process has slowed after a comparatively early, speedy beginning, leaving the US lagging many advanced-economy peers in terms of share of the population vaccinated; the United States has recorded, overall, a poor record during this global public-health crisis. The president’s recovery plan goes towards addressing many of America’s social crises with an aim to strengthening the social infrastructure of the nation via modernising schools and childcare facilities, expanding home and community-based care for the elderly and disabled, offer paid family leave, and strengthening the safety net to support poorer households. These policies seek to reverse the pandemic’s impact on labour force participation, help women to re-join the workforce, counter growing inequality and subpar growth, reduce crime, whilst building a more inclusive economic paradigm.

      With respect to environmental risk, the US receives medium scores on a CVS index of the American economy’s carbon intensity (capturing scale of an economy’s likely transition costs to greener economic structures over coming decades) under an international comparison although weaker scores than that of many peer economies. Similarly, the US receives medium scores as far as ecological footprint of the economy’s consumption compared with available biocapacity. Finally, CVS environmental scores as related to natural disaster risk, as captured via the World Risk Index, are strong, signalling relative economic preparedness to cope with natural hazards even acknowledging the United States’ significant exposure to a range of environmental hazards. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the US has experienced 308 significant climate disasters since 1980 with an aggregate price tag of above USD 2trn. Under the new administration, the US has importantly re-joined the Paris Climate Accords and committed to significant investment and measures addressing climate change and promotion of the green transition. The Biden government targets 50-52% reductions from 2005 levels in net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030, a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions no later than 2050.9 The government’s reversal of policies of the last administration and global leadership on climate issues support a ‘medium’ assessment on ‘environmental risks’ for the United States under the QS against the US’ sovereign peer group.

      Rating Committee
      The main points discussed by the rating committee: i) US debt ceiling and relevant long-term risk; ii) political polarisation and governance risk; iii) Biden recovery plan and budget impact; iv) debt sustainability; v) US electoral outlook; vi) financial stability; and vii) peers considerations.

       Rating driver references
      1. Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget – Updated Budget Projections Show Record Debt by 2031
      2. IMF – Fiscal Monitor October 2021
      3. Bipartisan Policy Center
      4. Bartholomew, L. and P. Diggle. “The lasting impact of the Covid crisis on economic potential”, VoxEU.
      5. Federal Reserve – Federal Open Market Committee – November 2021 Meeting
      6. IMF Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER)
      7. Federal Reserve, Results of 2021 bank stress tests
      8. Federal Reserve – Financial Stability Report – November 2021
      9. White House, Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Target

      Methodology
      The methodology used for these Credit Ratings and/or Outlooks, (Rating Methodology: Sovereign Ratings’ 8 October 2021), is available on https://www.scoperatings.com/#!methodology/list.
      Scope Ratings GmbH and Scope Ratings UK Limited apply the same methodologies/models and key rating assumptions for their credit rating services, while Scope Hamburg GmbH’s methodologies/models and key rating assumptions are different from those of Scope Ratings GmbH and Scope Ratings UK Limited.
      Information on the meaning of each Credit Rating category, including definitions of default, recoveries, Outlooks and Under Review, can be viewed in ‘Rating Definitions – Credit Ratings, Ancillary and Other Services’, published on https://www.scoperatings.com/#!governance-and-policies/rating-scale. Historical default rates of the entities rated by Scope Ratings can be viewed in the Credit Rating performance report at https://www.scoperatings.com/#governance-and-policies/regulatory-ESMA. Also refer to the central platform (CEREP) of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA): http://cerep.esma.europa.eu/cerep-web/statistics/defaults.xhtml. A comprehensive clarification of Scope Ratings’ definitions of default and Credit Rating notations can be found at https://www.scoperatings.com/#governance-and-policies/rating-scale. Guidance and information on how environmental, social or governance factors (ESG factors) are incorporated into the Credit Rating can be found in the respective sections of the methodologies or guidance documents provided on https://www.scoperatings.com/#!methodology/list.
      The Outlook indicates the most likely direction of the Credit Ratings if the Credit Ratings were to change within the next 12 to 18 months.

      Solicitation, key sources and quality of information
      The Credit Ratings were not requested by the Rated Entity or its Related Third Parties. The Credit Rating process was conducted:
      With Rated Entity or Related Third Party participation   NO
      With access to internal documents                                NO
      With access to management                                          NO
      The following substantially material sources of information were used to prepare the Credit Ratings: public domain.
      Scope Ratings considers the quality of information available to Scope Ratings on the Rated Entity or instrument to be satisfactory. The information and data supporting these Credit Ratings originate from sources Scope Ratings considers to be reliable and accurate. Scope Ratings does not, however, independently verify the reliability and accuracy of the information and data.
      Prior to the issuance of the Credit Rating action, the Rated Entity was given the opportunity to review the Credit Ratings and/or Outlooks and the principal grounds on which the Credit Ratings and/or Outlooks are based. Following that review, the Credit Ratings were not amended before being issued.

      Regulatory disclosures
      These Credit Ratings and/or Outlooks are issued by Scope Ratings GmbH, Lennéstraße 5, D-10785 Berlin, Tel +49 30 27891-0. The Credit Ratings and/or Outlooks are UK-endorsed.
      Lead analyst: Dennis Shen, Director
      Person responsible for approval of the Credit Ratings: Giacomo Barisone, Managing Director
      The Credit Ratings/Outlooks were first released by Scope Ratings in January 2003. The Credit Ratings/Outlooks were last updated on 26 July 2019.

      Potential conflicts
      See www.scoperatings.com under Governance & Policies/EU Regulation/Disclosures for a list of potential conflicts of interest related to the issuance of Credit Ratings.

      Conditions of use / exclusion of liability
      © 2021 Scope SE & Co. KGaA and all its subsidiaries including Scope Ratings GmbH, Scope Ratings UK Limited, Scope Analysis GmbH, Scope Investor Services GmbH, and Scope ESG Analysis GmbH (collectively, Scope). All rights reserved. The information and data supporting Scope’s ratings, rating reports, rating opinions and related research and credit opinions originate from sources Scope considers to be reliable and accurate. Scope does not, however, independently verify the reliability and accuracy of the information and data. Scope’s ratings, rating reports, rating opinions, or related research and credit opinions are provided ‘as is’ without any representation or warranty of any kind. In no circumstance shall Scope or its directors, officers, employees and other representatives be liable to any party for any direct, indirect, incidental or other damages, expenses of any kind, or losses arising from any use of Scope’s ratings, rating reports, rating opinions, related research or credit opinions. Ratings and other related credit opinions issued by Scope are, and have to be viewed by any party as, opinions on relative credit risk and not a statement of fact or recommendation to purchase, hold or sell securities. Past performance does not necessarily predict future results. Any report issued by Scope is not a prospectus or similar document related to a debt security or issuing entity. Scope issues credit ratings and related research and opinions with the understanding and expectation that parties using them will assess independently the suitability of each security for investment or transaction purposes. Scope’s credit ratings address relative credit risk, they do not address other risks such as market, liquidity, legal, or volatility. The information and data included herein is protected by copyright and other laws. To reproduce, transmit, transfer, disseminate, translate, resell, or store for subsequent use for any such purpose the information and data contained herein, contact Scope Ratings GmbH at Lennéstraße 5, D-10785 Berlin.

       

      UST 3.000 02/15/47 UST 3.625 08/15/43 UST 5.375 02/15/31 UST 2.750 08/15/47 UST 0.750 02/15/42 UST 2.500 02/15/45 UST 2.125 02/15/40 UST 2.750 11/15/42 UST 0.625 02/15/43 UST 1.750 01/15/28 UST 5.250 11/15/28 UST 2.500 01/15/29 UST 2.875 08/15/45 UST 3.000 11/15/45 UST 2.375 01/15/27 UST 4.750 02/15/41 UST 3.625 04/15/28 UST 3.875 08/15/40 UST 3.000 05/15/47 UST 4.250 05/15/39 UST 6.125 08/15/29 UST 6.625 02/15/27 UST 2.250 08/15/46 UST 4.250 11/15/40 UST 3.125 08/15/44 UST 6.875 08/15/25 UST 3.125 11/15/41 UST 2.125 02/15/41 UST 3.000 05/15/42 UST 2.000 01/15/26 UST 2.875 05/15/43 UST 1.000 02/15/46 UST 4.375 05/15/41 UST 3.125 02/15/43 UST 3.000 05/15/45 UST 4.625 02/15/40 UST 5.500 08/15/28 UST 3.625 02/15/44 UST 7.500 11/15/24 UST 4.500 08/15/39 UST 4.750 02/15/37 UST 3.375 05/15/44 UST 4.375 05/15/40 UST 4.375 02/15/38 UST 3.000 11/15/44 UST 3.500 02/15/39 UST 4.500 02/15/36 UST 2.500 02/15/46 UST 3.875 04/15/29 UST 2.875 11/15/46 UST 0.875 02/15/47 UST 2.375 01/15/25 UST 6.375 08/15/27 UST 0.750 02/15/45 UST 6.250 05/15/30 UST 6.000 02/15/26 UST 5.250 02/15/29 UST 3.750 11/15/43 UST 1.375 02/15/44 UST 3.750 08/15/41 UST 6.750 08/15/26 UST 4.375 11/15/39 UST 6.125 11/15/27 UST 3.375 04/15/32 UST 2.500 05/15/46 UST 4.500 05/15/38 UST 3.125 02/15/42 UST 2.750 08/15/42 UST 6.500 11/15/26 UST 5.000 05/15/37 UST 7.625 02/15/25 UST 0.125 07/15/26 UST 2.375 05/15/27 UST 1.500 08/15/26 UST 1.625 05/15/26 UST 2.000 12/31/21 UST 0.625 01/15/26 UST 2.000 11/15/26 UST 2.125 05/15/25 UST 1.625 02/15/26 UST 2.250 08/15/27 UST 2.000 08/15/25 UST 0.375 01/15/27 UST 2.250 02/15/27 UST 0.125 07/15/24 UST 2.250 11/15/24 UST 2.125 07/31/24 UST 1.500 01/31/22 UST 0.125 01/15/22 UST 1.750 11/30/21 UST 1.875 08/31/24 UST 2.125 09/30/24 UST 2.000 06/30/24 UST 1.875 11/30/21 UST 2.125 12/31/21 UST 0.375 07/15/27 UST 0.375 07/15/25 UST 1.875 01/31/22 UST 2.250 11/15/25 UST 2.375 08/15/24 UST 2.000 02/15/25 UST 0.250 01/15/25 UST 2.750 02/15/28 UST 3.000 02/15/48 UST 2.750 11/15/47 UST 2.625 03/31/25 UST 2.250 11/15/27 UST 2.750 02/28/25 UST 0.500 01/15/28 UST 1.000 02/15/48 UST 2.500 01/31/25 UST 2.250 12/31/24 UST 2.250 10/31/24 UST 2.125 11/30/24 UST 2.875 04/30/25 UST 3.125 05/15/48 UST 2.875 05/15/28 UST 2.875 05/31/25 UST 2.750 06/30/25 UST 0.750 07/15/28 UST 2.875 07/31/25 UST 2.875 08/15/28 UST 3.000 08/15/48 UST 2.750 08/31/25 UST 3.000 09/30/25 UST 3.000 10/31/25 UST 3.375 11/15/48 UST 3.125 11/15/28 UST 2.875 11/30/25 UST 2.625 12/15/21 UST 2.625 12/31/25 UST 2.500 01/15/22 UST 0.875 01/15/29 UST 2.625 01/31/26 UST 2.625 02/15/29 UST 3.000 02/15/49 UST 1.000 02/15/49 UST 2.500 02/28/26 UST 2.250 03/31/26 UST 2.375 04/30/26 UST 2.875 05/15/49 UST 2.375 05/15/29 UST 2.125 05/31/26 UST 1.750 06/30/24 UST 1.875 06/30/26 UST 1.875 07/31/26 UST 0.250 07/15/29 UST 1.750 07/31/24 UST 2.250 08/15/49 UST 1.625 08/15/29 UST 1.375 08/31/26 UST 1.250 08/31/24 UST 1.500 09/30/24 UST 1.625 09/30/26 UST 1.625 10/31/26 UST 0.125 10/15/24 UST 1.500 10/31/24 UST 2.375 11/15/49 UST 1.750 11/15/29 UST 1.500 11/30/21 UST 1.625 11/30/26 UST 1.500 11/30/24 UST 0.375 09/30/27 UST 0.250 09/30/25 UST 0.250 08/31/25 UST 0.500 08/31/27 UST 1.125 08/15/40 UST 0.625 08/15/30 UST 1.375 08/15/50 UST 0.250 07/31/25 UST 0.375 07/31/27 UST 0.125 07/15/30 UST 0.250 06/30/25 UST 0.500 06/30/27 UST 0.250 05/31/25 UST 0.500 05/31/27 UST 1.125 05/15/40 UST 1.250 05/15/50 UST 0.625 05/15/30 UST 0.125 04/15/25 UST 0.375 04/30/25 UST 0.500 04/30/27 UST 0.625 03/31/27 UST 0.500 03/31/25 UST 1.125 02/28/27 UST 1.125 02/28/25 UST 0.250 02/15/50 UST 1.500 02/15/30 UST 2.000 02/15/50 UST 1.375 01/31/22 UST 0.125 01/15/30 UST 1.375 01/31/25 UST 1.500 01/31/27 UST 0.254 01/31/22 FRN UST 1.750 12/31/26 UST 1.750 12/31/24 UST 1.625 12/31/21 UST 0.500 10/31/27 UST 0.375 11/30/25 UST 0.625 11/30/27 UST 1.375 11/15/40 UST 0.875 11/15/30 UST 0.125 10/15/25 UST 0.250 10/31/25 UST 1.625 11/15/50 UST 0.625 12/31/27 UST 0.375 12/31/25 UST 0.375 01/31/26 UST 1.125 02/15/31 UST 1.875 02/15/41 When Iss UST 1.875 02/15/51 UST 0.125 01/15/31 UST 0.750 01/31/28 UST 0.125 02/15/51 When Iss UST 0.500 02/28/26 UST 1.125 02/29/28 UST 0.750 03/31/26 When Iss UST 1.250 03/31/28 When Iss UST 1.250 04/30/28 UST 0.125 04/15/26 UST 0.750 04/30/26 UST 1.500 05/15/31 When Iss UST 2.250 05/15/51 When Iss UST 1.250 05/31/28 UST 0.750 05/31/26 UST 2.250 05/15/41 UST 0.375 07/15/24 When Iss UST 0.875 06/30/26 UST 1.250 06/30/28 UST 0.625 07/31/26 UST 2.000 08/15/51 UST 0.375 08/15/24 UST 1.250 08/15/31 UST 1.000 07/31/28 UST 0.750 08/31/26 UST 0.375 09/15/24 UST 1.250 09/30/28 UST 0.875 09/30/26 UST 1.125 08/31/28 UST 1.750 08/15/41 UST 0.125 07/15/31 UST 0.125 10/15/26 UST 1.375 10/31/28 UST 1.125 10/31/26 UST 0.625 11/15/24 When Iss UST 1.875 11/15/51 When Iss UST 1.500 11/15/31 When Iss UST 1.000 12/15/24 UST 2.000 11/15/41 UST 1.500 11/30/28 UST 1.250 11/30/26 UST 1.375 12/31/28 UST 1.250 12/31/26 UST 1.125 01/15/25 UST 1.750 01/31/29 UST 0.125 01/15/32 UST 2.375 02/15/42 UST 1.875 02/28/27 UST 0.125 02/15/52 UST 1.500 02/15/25 UST 1.875 02/28/29 UST 1.875 02/15/32 UST 2.250 02/15/52 UST 2.500 03/31/27 UST 1.750 03/15/25 UST 2.375 03/31/29 UST 0.125 04/15/27 UST 2.875 04/30/29 UST 2.750 04/30/27 UST 2.625 04/15/25 UST 2.750 05/31/29 UST 2.875 05/15/32 UST 2.625 05/31/27 UST 2.750 05/15/25 UST 3.250 05/15/42 UST 2.875 05/15/52 UST 2.875 06/15/25 UST 3.000 07/15/25 UST 3.250 06/30/27 UST 3.000 06/30/24 UST 3.250 06/30/29 UST 3.375 08/15/42 UST 3.000 07/31/24 UST 3.125 08/15/25 UST 3.000 08/15/52 UST 4.125 09/30/27 UST 4.250 09/30/24 UST 3.500 09/15/25 UST 2.750 08/15/32 UST 2.625 07/31/29 UST 3.125 08/31/29 UST 3.250 08/31/24 UST 3.405 07/31/24 FRN UST 0.625 07/15/32 UST 2.750 07/31/27 UST 3.125 08/31/27 UST 3.875 09/30/29

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