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      Scope confirms the United States of America at AA and assigns a Negative Outlook

      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 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 2.000 05/31/24 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 2.500 05/15/24 UST 2.000 04/30/24 UST 2.125 03/31/24 UST 2.125 02/29/24 UST 1.875 08/31/24 UST 2.125 09/30/24 UST 2.000 06/30/24 UST 0.375 07/15/27 UST 0.375 07/15/25 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 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Iss UST 0.500 02/28/26 UST 1.125 02/29/28 UST 0.250 03/15/24 UST 0.750 03/31/26 When Iss UST 1.250 03/31/28 When Iss UST 0.250 05/15/24 When Iss UST 0.375 04/15/24 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 0.250 06/15/24 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 1.500 02/29/24 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 2.250 03/31/24 UST 2.375 03/31/29 UST 0.125 04/15/27 UST 2.875 04/30/29 UST 2.500 04/30/24 UST 0.827 04/30/24 FRN 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 2.500 05/31/24 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 UST 4.250 10/15/25 UST 4.457 10/31/24 FRN UST 1.625 10/15/27 UST 4.000 10/31/29 UST 4.375 10/31/24 UST 4.125 10/31/27 UST 4.000 11/15/52 UST 4.125 11/15/32 UST 4.500 11/15/25 UST 3.875 11/30/27 UST 4.500 11/30/24 UST 4.000 11/15/42 UST 3.875 11/30/29 UST 0.625 10/15/24 UST 4.000 12/15/25 UST 4.250 12/31/24 UST 3.875 12/31/27 UST 3.750 04/15/26 UST 3.625 03/31/30 UST 3.625 03/31/28 UST 3.875 03/31/25 UST 4.625 03/15/26 UST 1.500 02/15/53 UST 3.875 02/15/43 UST 4.625 02/28/25 UST 4.000 02/28/30 UST 4.000 02/29/28 UST 4.000 02/15/26 UST 3.625 02/15/53 UST 3.500 02/15/33 UST 3.500 01/31/28 UST 1.125 01/15/33 UST 4.125 01/31/25 UST 5.346 01/31/25 FRN UST 3.500 01/31/30 UST 3.875 01/15/26 UST 3.875 12/31/29 UST 4.250 05/31/25 UST 3.625 05/31/28 UST 3.875 05/15/43 UST 3.750 05/31/30 UST 3.625 05/15/53 UST 3.375 05/15/33 UST 3.625 05/15/26 UST 3.875 04/30/25 UST 3.500 04/30/30 UST 3.500 04/30/28 UST 5.541 04/30/25 FRN UST 1.250 04/15/28 UST 4.500 07/15/26 UST 3.750 06/30/30 UST 4.625 06/30/25 UST 4.000 06/30/28 UST 4.125 06/15/26 UST 4.625 09/30/30 UST 4.625 09/30/28 UST 5.000 09/30/25 UST 4.625 09/15/26 UST 4.375 08/15/43 UST 4.125 08/31/30 UST 5.000 08/31/25 UST 4.375 08/31/28 UST 3.875 08/15/33 UST 4.375 08/15/26 UST 4.125 08/15/53 UST 1.375 07/15/33 UST 5.538 07/31/25 FRN UST 4.750 07/31/25 UST 4.125 07/31/28 UST 4.000 07/31/30 UST 4.500 11/15/33 UST 4.625 11/15/26 UST 4.750 11/15/53 UST 2.375 10/15/28 UST 5.000 10/31/25 UST 4.875 10/31/28 UST 4.875 10/31/30 UST 5.521 10/31/25 FRN UST 4.625 10/15/26 UST 4.250 12/31/25 UST 3.750 12/31/28 UST 3.750 12/31/30 UST 4.375 12/15/26 UST 4.875 11/30/25 UST 4.750 11/15/43 UST 4.375 11/30/28 UST 4.375 11/30/30 UST 2.125 01/15/34 UST 4.000 01/15/27
      THURSDAY, 29/06/2023 - Scope Ratings GmbH
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      Scope confirms the United States of America at AA and assigns a Negative Outlook

      Recurrent debt-ceiling risk, rise in polarisation and elevated federal deficits drive the Negative Outlook. A large and wealthy economy, dollar’s status as the primary international reserve currency and a leading financial system are credit strengths.

      Rating action

      Scope Ratings GmbH (Scope) has today confirmed the United States of America’s long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings in local- and foreign-currency at AA and assigned a Negative Outlook, concluding a review of the ratings initiated on 5 May 2023. The United States’ short-term issuer ratings have been confirmed at S-1+ in local- and foreign-currency, with Negative Outlooks assigned, concluding a review of the ratings initiated on 5 May 2023.

      For the updated report accompanying this review, click here.

      Summary and Outlook

      The Negative Outlook assigned for the United States’ ratings reflects the pursuant credit-rating drivers:

      1. Recurrent risk associated with the debt-ceiling instrument. Recurrent debt-ceiling crises have resulted in phases of severe debt repayment distress for the federal government and dependence on last-minute congressional action to ensure repayment of the United States’ debt in full and on time. These risks furthermore interact with:
         
      2. A long-run rise in political polarisation and resulting governance challenges; and
         
      3. A persistent weakening of government finances vis-à-vis sovereign peers, given a high and rising debt stock and comparatively elevated federal deficits over forthcoming years.

      The recent debt-limit crisis was resolved after Congress approved a last-minute suspension of the debt ceiling until 1 January 2025, avoiding technical default. This was in line with the agency’s baseline expectation. Nevertheless, while any given debt-ceiling episode such as the recent iteration is more likely than not to be ultimately resolved, repetition of such severe episodes raises acute risks long run within conditions of heightened political and social polarisation, recurrent political brinkmanship and comparatively wide budgetary deficits. This underscores the Negative Outlook.

      The United States’ AA credit ratings reflect outstanding sovereign credit strengths, such as a wealthy, competitive and diversified economy, the largest economy globally in nominal terms and second largest based on purchasing power parity. In addition, the US benefits from the dollar’s continued role as the preeminent international reserve currency, bringing unrivalled strengths with respect to Treasury’s financing flexibility, and significantly reducing longer-run debt sustainability risk from comparatively higher government debt than many countries of the same ratings class. The United States, furthermore, benefits from sound, transparent and accountable economic institutions, including the globe’s foremost central bank in the Federal Reserve supporting macroeconomic and price stability, alongside one of the globe’s deepest capital markets.

      The Negative Outlook underscores Scope’s opinion that risks to the sovereign rating are skewed to the downside during the forthcoming 12-18 months.

      The ratings could be downgraded in the event of, individually or collectively: i) conclusion of a rise in risk from the debt limit; ii) weakening of governance, presenting adverse ramifications for the efficacy of government in its management of the economy and resolution of crises; iii) a weakening in the outlook for public finances, such as anticipation of material rises in the government debt ratio beyond the agency’s baseline expectations; and/or iv) evidence of a significantly reduced role for the US dollar as the global reserve currency, leading to attenuated global demand for US treasuries.

      Conversely, the Outlooks could be revised to Stable if, individually or collectively: i) congressional or executive action sees the effective overruling, reform or removal of the debt limit – enhancing the United States’ fiscal framework and reducing or eliminating a risk of technical default from the instrument; ii) sustained reduction in political polarisation enhances the efficacy of economic policy setting; and/or iii) economic and fiscal reforms place general government debt-to-GDP on a sustained declining trajectory.

      Rating rationale

      Firstly, the assignment of a Negative Outlook reflects recurrent longer-run risk associated with partisan use of the debt-ceiling instrument, with the United States government experiencing elevated debt repayment risks during recurrent crises. This risk has risen under present conditions of increasing political partisanship alongside more elevated budget deficits during the forthcoming years.

      On 3 June 2023, President Joseph Biden signed into law the suspension of the debt limit until 1 January 2025. Resultantly, Treasury regained its borrowing capacity on 5 June – on the so-called X-date as estimated by Treasury, and shortly before extraordinary measures were exhausted and the US government faced a decision of either delaying payments on some activities or defaulting on debt obligations. The Treasury held under USD 39bn in cash by 1 June – from the USD 573bn as of 23 January after the debt ceiling was reached. Any further delay of negotiations or of congressional approval processes might have forced proceedings beyond the X-date.

      Although Congress suspended the statutory limit, the debt limit binds again in roughly a year and a half – following potentially highly-contested 2024 federal elections that might further divide the nation. The frequency of such debt-ceiling stand-offs alongside a recurring, non-negligible possibility of temporary non-repayment during specific and severe episodes constitutes a unique vulnerability among the United States’ highly-rated sovereign peer group. Temporary non-repayment of liabilities might occur after a miscalculation of the consequences of brinkmanship and/or duration of political processes for extending the debt limit given narrow margins of error and proximity to default during crises. Scope recalls the only technical US government debt default of the post-war era occurred in 1979 partly due to partisan misuse of the debt ceiling, and so does not assume debt-ceiling stand-offs are inevitably resolved on time. Furthermore, while Scope expects investors to be repaid even following a technical-default event, side stepping meaningful net-present-value losses, each debt-ceiling crisis brings otherwise avoidable financial-market instability and modest damage to the market for US debt securities and the wider economy. The spread on one-year credit default swaps rose above 150bps mid-May at peaks of the crisis, from about 15bps at the beginning of this year – reaching levels above those from the 2011 crisis.

      The agency’s review for downgrade since 5 May has furthermore considered varying proposals for the reform or overruling of the debt ceiling – for elimination of repetition of crisis. A bipartisan proposition from the House of Representatives Problem Solvers Caucus early this year sought to define the debt limit as a fixed percentage of GDP. Democrats recently re-introduced the bicameral “Debt Ceiling Reform Act”1, which would allow the Treasury Department to continue paying the nation’s bills unless Congress decides to intervene via a veto-proof resolution of disapproval. Another effort is a bipartisan bill: the Responsible Budgeting Act2 that would alter rules around debt-ceiling contests and provide further off-ramps from associated crises. While Scope views such initiatives as pointing in the right direction for reform of the United States fiscal framework, said initiatives face the common problem of the party in opposition being incentivised to stifle reform due to the debt ceiling inherently presenting a channel for governing from opposition.

      Alternatively, President Biden considered, during crisis peaks, invocation of the fourteenth Constitutional Amendment – which states the validity of the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned. A successful invocation of the fourteenth Amendment might hypothetically overrule the debt limit. But whether the fourteenth Amendment is a practical vehicle to side stepping default faces constitutional challenges. Presently, absent an extant debt-ceiling crisis, there might lack a trial case to support any authoritative judicial review. During the Barack Obama administration, Justice Department lawyers examined and ultimately concluded the fourteenth Amendment was not a viable pathway from the crisis. The National Association of Government Employees filed a lawsuit on 8 May in the US District Court in Boston similarly challenging the constitutionality of the debt limit, arguing federal workers would be harmed if the limit was breached. But the judge in the case has postponed a hearing due to the debt ceiling being suspended at this stage – eliminating imminency of default, although plaintiffs plan to maintain their case.

      Ultimately, means of durably reducing risk from the instrument – whether via congressional reform or Supreme Court overruling – which have been suggested over the last decade – face challenges within a divided nation.

      The second driver of the Negative Outlook on the United States’ credit rating reflects persistent governance challenges.

      Partisan polarisation in Congress stands at historic highs3, tying to less deliberative legislative processes, raising political brinkmanship and impeding government capacity to further address material medium-run economic and fiscal challenges. Importantly, rising political polarisation interacts with debt-ceiling risks – making it more difficult to reach bipartisan solutions resolving such crises. Periodic government shutdowns as well elevate contingent risks especially when occurring concurrently with debt-ceiling crises. Conservative Republicans seek an added USD 120bn of non-defence spending cuts for fiscal year 2023-24 beyond last month’s debt-ceiling agreement – a push that could raise risk of a government shutdown later this year. Furthermore, the 2024 elections hold significant stakes and potential governance implications.

      Finally, the assignment of a Negative Outlook considers challenges affecting the United States’ fiscal outlook, considering wider budget deficits than averages from before the Covid-19 crisis alongside rising government debt. Elevated deficits raise risk during debt-ceiling crises – curtailing the space of time Treasury has for emergency actions in meeting government spending obligations during crises.

      The general government deficit declined to 5.5% of GDP last year, down 6.1pps from the previous year, supported by the withdrawal of Covid-19 crisis relief policies as well as sturdy revenue growth. Nevertheless, headline budget deficits are presently seen returning to more elevated levels from this year on, rising to about 6.3% of GDP in 2023 before stabilising around a 6.6% average during 2024-28 (compared with a 4.8% average from 2015-19). This medium-run projection accounts for savings from the “Fiscal Responsibility Act” concluding the recent crisis. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the deal might trim deficits USD 1.5trn over 2023-33 (about 0.5% of GDP a year as concerns 2027 and 2028 deficits) and curtail debt-to-GDP around 3pps by 2033 – most of this from assuming statutory caps restrict discretionary funding in 2024 and 2025.

      Nevertheless, cuts to discretionary spending from the Fiscal Responsibility Act only partly offset effects of deficit-raising policies such as the administration’s student loan forgiveness programme, spending pressures from an ageing population, as well as expectations of higher debt-servicing costs as debt is refinanced under higher interest-rate conditions (given 10-year yields presently of just under 4%, below highs of 4.3% last autumn but remaining significantly above 2020 lows of 0.5%). Because of an average maturity of treasuries of 6.1 years (below advanced-economy averages of 7.3 years), annual government gross financing requirements are a high 32% of GDP this year before averaging 28% over 2024-28 – reflecting rising net interest payments of 10.3% of general government revenue by 2028, from a 6.4% figure as of 2022, above that of peer United Kingdom (rated AA/Stable): 6.4% in 2028 and France (rated AA/Negative): 5.3% (2028).

      Importantly, the United States’ general government debt-to-GDP ratio declined to 121.7% in 2022, cut a meaningful 11.8pps from 2020 highs because of strong economic growth and elevated inflation, although remaining above pre-pandemic debt of 108.7% in 2019. Nevertheless, this improving debt trajectory is expected to begin reversing this year, as debt edges sideways to around 122.1% this year, before rising along a moderate trend over the subsequent years, concluding a forecast horizon (to 2028) around 133%, reflecting primary budget deficits outweighing the debt-cutting effects of continued economic growth and higher inflation for longer. Over the longer run, ageing-related spending is a risk. The IMF estimates the net present value of health-care (150%) and pensions (17%) spending changes of an aggregate 167% of GDP during 2022-50, the largest amount forecast for any advanced economy4.

      Rapid tightening of funding conditions has elevated financial-system risks after an extended phase of accommodative central-bank policy. Vulnerabilities emerged earlier this year after the failure of several regional credit institutions, partially reflecting regulatory shortcomings. Although swift and effective interventions from authorities prevented the spread of the crisis to other segments of the financial system, financial-stability risk is expected to stay a thematic during the coming years.

      The United States’ external sector is another credit challenge, with a current-account deficit of 3.5% of GDP in the year to Q1 2023, nearly doubling from 2.0% of GDP in the year to Q1 2020. This current-account imbalance is significantly linked to budget deficits, with the current-account deficit expected by the IMF to stay above 2% of GDP through 2028. The net international investment liability position of the United States is 65% of GDP at Q1 2023, having, nevertheless, decreased from 81% of GDP as of end-2021.

      Despite outstanding credit challenges, the United States maintains unique credit strengths underscoring AA credit ratings.

      The United States’ rating is supported by a large and diversified economy that is the world’s largest by nominal size (USD 26.9trn in 2023) – significantly enhancing its resilience during global economic crises, with a high level of wealth (GDP per capita of USD 80,136 – among the highest globally), and global leadership in areas such as science, technology and innovation. The flexibility of labour and product markets, a dynamic, entrepreneurial business culture, and a skilled labour force are further economic strengths. Real labour productivity per hour worked in 2022 stood around 36% above 2000 levels, roughly twice the gains observed over the same period in economies of peer sovereign states such as United Kingdom and France. Demographic trends remain more favourable than those of most rating credit-rating peers’ economies, with the United States’ working-age population expected to grow around 0.1% a year over 2023-30, albeit weakening materially from the 0.4% annual growth of the last decade.

      After a strong post-pandemic economic recovery in 2021, real growth stayed a robust 2.1% in 2022, despite technical recession as the rating agency expected in the first half of the year. This placed economic output about 5pps above end-2019 levels, considerably higher than that for economies of most other highly-rated sovereigns. Output growth slowed to an estimated 0.3% QoQ in Q1 2023, as resilient private consumption offset negative contributions from business investment and inventories. Scope estimates growth of 1.6% in 2023 before 1.2% in 2024. This assumes fresh slowdown by the second half of this year – driven by tighter monetary and fiscal policy. Medium run, the rate of potential growth is assessed around 2%, comparing favourably against the potential growth estimate of peer economies: the United Kingdom (1.5%) and France (1.35%).

      Headline price pressures have decelerated to a degree over the recent months, with personal consumption expenditure (PCE) inflation of 4.4% YoY in April, slightly above its March lows of 4.2%. While PCE inflation for goods has moderated, under a context of moderating price growth for durable goods and agricultural and energy commodities, PCE inflation for services remains elevated, reflecting a broadening of inflationary pressure. Core PCE stood at 4.7% YoY in April 2023, off only slightly from February-2022 highs of 5.3%. Scope expects consumer-price-index inflation to moderate only gradually, averaging 4.4% in 2023 before 3.3% in 2024. This higher inflation for longer partly reflects a context of tight labour markets, with the unemployment rate staying near multi-decade lows averaging 3.6% in 2023 before 4.0% in 2024.

      As a response to inflation risk, the Federal Reserve has appropriately hiked rates 500bps since March 2022 to 5.0-5.25% by May before adopting a “hawkish pause” during the June meeting5. The Federal Reserve accelerated since 2022 its pace of quantitative tightening – doubling a pace of balance-sheet reduction to USD 95bn a month. Scope anticipates additional rate rises, bringing the Federal Funds Rate target range to 5.5-5.75% by end-2023 before cuts only by the 2H of 2024 to 5.0-5.25% by end-2024.

      Furthermore, the United States’ AA ratings are anchored by an independent monetary policy under the globe’s preeminent central bank in the Federal Reserve and dollar’s unparalleled global reserve currency status, enabling the country to run fiscal and current-account deficits with comparatively limited concerns with respect to long-run public and/or external debt sustainability. Based on IMF data6, about 58.4% of the globe’s foreign-exchange reserves were held in dollar as of end-2022, significantly ahead of the euro (20.5%), yen (5.5%) and the pound sterling (4.9%); 2.7% of reserves were held in renminbi. However, the dollar share has nevertheless declined from an above 70% share as of the early 2000s, as long-run challengers to dollar hegemony have evolved. This longer-run evolution of alternative reserve currencies accelerated since the full-scale Russia-Ukraine war.

      On the basis of alternative reserve-currency metrics, the share of the US dollar remains likewise dominant, including with respect to currency denomination of outstanding international debt securities (65.5%, with the euro next having around 22%), outstanding international loans (52%, with the euro around 27.6%) and international deposits (55.5%, with the euro around 25.3%) as of end-20227. This prime reserve-currency status of the dollar globally is unique among sovereigns rated by Scope and captured via a three-notch positive reserve-currency adjustment to the United States’ indicative credit rating underlying the assigned AA ratings. The safe-haven status of dollar presents the US Treasury with unrivalled access to international debt capital markets, including, crucially, during phases of global financial crisis. Scope sees dollar’s status as the leading global reserve currency as unlikely to be meaningfully challenged for the foreseeable future.

      Furthermore, the United States’ AA ratings are helped by world-class financial-supervisory institutions, and one of the world’s most advanced financial systems. Banks are soundly positioned on aggregate, given tier 1 capital of 13.6% of risk-weighted assets as of Q1 2023. Strong asset quality is reflected in non-performing loans of under 1% of total loans, below levels from end-2019 and displaying limited deterioration despite tepid economic growth momentum since 2022. After declining temporarily during the first half of 2022, banking-sector profitability stood above pre-pandemic levels by Q1 2023, with an aggregate return on equity ratio rising to 14.3% – significantly above the ratios observed within most peer-economy banking systems. Nevertheless, weaknesses of some small and medium-sized banks have provoked concerns as the Federal Reserve continues rate rises.

      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 ‘bbb’ for 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 ‘a’ final indicative rating can be adjusted, in the following methodological step, by the Qualitative Scorecard (QS) by up to three notches depending on the size of relative qualitative credit strengths or weaknesses against the ‘a’ indicative peer group of countries.

      For the United States, ‘growth potential of the economy’, ‘monetary policy framework’, ‘macro-economic stability and sustainability’, ‘debt sustainability’, ‘debt profile and market access’, ‘current account resilience’, ‘external debt structure’, ‘resilience to short-term external shocks’, ‘banking sector performance’, and ‘banking sector oversight’ have been identified as relative credit strengths against the United States’ peer group. Conversely, ‘fiscal policy framework’ and ‘institutional and political factors’ are identified as relative credit weaknesses against the sovereign peers.

      On aggregate, the QS generates a three-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 25% weighting under the quantitative model (CVS).

      With respect to environmental risk, the US receives medium scores under the CVS on an index of the economy’s carbon intensity as measured by CO2 emissions per unit of GDP (capturing the scale of an economy’s likely transition costs to a greener economic paradigm), all the while displaying weak marks with respect to the level of greenhouse gas emissions per capita. The US receives medium scores as far as the ecological footprint of its consumption as compared against available biocapacity. However, CVS scores relating to natural disaster risk, as captured by the World Risk Index, are weak, signalling a meaningful exposure to a range of environmental hazards. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the US has experienced 357 significant climate disasters since 1980 with an aggregate price tag exceeding USD 2.54trn8. Under the present administration, the US 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 prudently 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 not later than 2050. The government’s reversal of the environmental policies of the last administration and renewed global leadership on climate topics support a ‘neutral’ assessment on ‘environmental factors’ of the United States under the agency’s QS against the country’s ‘a’ sovereign peer group.

      Credit factors related to performance on social benchmarks are similarly captured by the CVS quantitative model and QS analyst overlay. In the CVS, the US performs weakly on income inequality, as measured quantitatively by the income share of the 20% of the population with the highest income levels against that received by the 20% of the population with the lowest income. However, CVS marks on labour-force participation are aligned with that of peer economies – although labour-force participation (of those 16+ years of age) remains slightly below pre-crisis levels at 62.6% as of March 2023 against 63.3% in December 2019. The US receives a weak score within the CVS for its old-age dependency ratio, although somewhat better than scores of most other advanced economies. Via the QS, Scope furthermore considers polarised distributions of household income and wealth, disappointing tertiary-education outcomes, erosion of socio-economic mobility, long-standing racial tensions alongside elevated poverty. Despite the high cost of US health care, healthy life expectancy has lagged that of most advanced economies. However, the Covid-19 recovery plan has been directed to addressing many social crises with an aim of strengthening the aggregate infrastructure. Scope evaluates the United States’ ‘social factors’ under the QS presently with an assessment of ‘neutral’ compared against sovereign peers.

      Under governance-related factors captured in the CVS, the United States maintains good average scores on six World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGIs), although the US’ scores are weaker than that of main sovereign peers – especially on the category of political stability and absence of violence & terrorism. The United States’ scores have weakened across the six WGIs since 2010, although there was a slight improvement in scores in 2021 compared against 2020. The US benefits nevertheless from resilient democratic institutions and checks and balances protecting accountability and transparency. With Democrats in control of the presidency and Congress over the first two years of the Biden administration, the government was able to advance on some aspects of its agenda. However, Democrats’ loss of a majority in the House of Representatives since November 2022 has significantly weakened government capacity to execute on ambitious policy reforms ahead of 2024 presidential and congressional elections. Under the QS, Scope assesses ‘governance factors’ of the United States as ‘weak’ against an indicative peer group of sovereign states.

      Rating Committee
      The main points discussed by the rating committee: i) recurrence of debt-ceiling crises and debt-ceiling reform; ii) 2023 debt-ceiling crisis; iii) governance challenges and 2024 elections; iv) fiscal dynamics; v) growth potential; and vi) sovereign peers comparison.

      Rating driver references
      1. Congressman Brendan Boyle – Boyle, Durbin Introduce Bicameral Legislation to End Cycle of Republican Default Brinkmanship
      2. Congresswoman Jodey Arrington – Reps. Arrington, Peters Introduce H.R. 6139, the Responsible Budgeting Act
      3. Pew Research Center, 2022 – The polarization in today’s Congress has roots that go back decades
      4. IMF – Fiscal Monitor April 2023
      5. Federal Reserve – Federal Open Market Committee: June 13-14, 2023 FOMC Meeting
      6. IMF Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange Reserves (COFER)
      7. European Central Bank – The international role of the euro, June 2023
      8. National Centers for Environmental Information (NOAA) – Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2023)

      Methodology
      The methodology used for these Credit Ratings and/or Outlooks, (Sovereign Rating Methodology, 27 September 2022), is available on https://scoperatings.com/governance-and-policies/rating-governance/methodologies.
      The model used for these Credit Ratings and Outlooks is (Core Variable Scorecard Model version 2.1), available in Scope Ratings’ list of models, published under https://scoperatings.com/governance-and-policies/rating-governance/methodologies.
      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-governance/definitions-and-scales. Historical default rates of the entities rated by Scope Ratings can be viewed in the Credit Rating performance report at https://scoperatings.com/governance-and-policies/regulatory/eu-regulation. 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-governance/definitions-and-scales. 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://scoperatings.com/governance-and-policies/rating-governance/methodologies.

      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 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, Senior 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 5 May 2023.
      As a "sovereign rating" (as defined in EU CRA Regulation 1060/2009 "EU CRA Regulation"), the ratings of the United States are subject to certain publication restrictions set out in Art 8a of the EU CRA Regulation, including publication in accordance with a pre-established calendar (see "Publication Calendar 2023: Sovereign, Sub-Sovereign and Supranational Ratings" published on 3 April 2023 on www.scoperatings.com). Under the EU CRA Regulation, deviations from the announced calendar are allowed only in limited circumstances and must be accompanied by a detailed explanation of the reasons for deviation. In this case, the deviation was to resolve the United States rating being placed under review for downgrade on 5 May 2023, and following a review of the recent debt-ceiling crisis and recurrence of debt-limit crises. This event has prompted publication of this credit rating action on a date deviating from previously scheduled release dates per Scope’s sovereign release calendar.

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

      Conditions of use / exclusion of liability
      © 2023 Scope SE & Co. KGaA and all its subsidiaries including Scope Ratings GmbH, Scope Ratings UK Limited, Scope Fund 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 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 2.000 05/31/24 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 2.500 05/15/24 UST 2.000 04/30/24 UST 2.125 03/31/24 UST 2.125 02/29/24 UST 1.875 08/31/24 UST 2.125 09/30/24 UST 2.000 06/30/24 UST 0.375 07/15/27 UST 0.375 07/15/25 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 12/31/25 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 2.375 02/29/24 UST 2.500 02/28/26 UST 2.250 03/31/26 UST 0.500 04/15/24 UST 2.375 04/30/26 UST 2.250 04/30/24 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 1.625 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 0.125 01/15/30 UST 1.375 01/31/25 UST 1.500 01/31/27 UST 1.750 12/31/26 UST 1.750 12/31/24 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 0.250 03/15/24 UST 0.750 03/31/26 When Iss UST 1.250 03/31/28 When Iss UST 0.250 05/15/24 When Iss UST 0.375 04/15/24 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 0.250 06/15/24 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 1.500 02/29/24 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 2.250 03/31/24 UST 2.375 03/31/29 UST 0.125 04/15/27 UST 2.875 04/30/29 UST 2.500 04/30/24 UST 0.827 04/30/24 FRN 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 2.500 05/31/24 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 UST 4.250 10/15/25 UST 4.457 10/31/24 FRN UST 1.625 10/15/27 UST 4.000 10/31/29 UST 4.375 10/31/24 UST 4.125 10/31/27 UST 4.000 11/15/52 UST 4.125 11/15/32 UST 4.500 11/15/25 UST 3.875 11/30/27 UST 4.500 11/30/24 UST 4.000 11/15/42 UST 3.875 11/30/29 UST 0.625 10/15/24 UST 4.000 12/15/25 UST 4.250 12/31/24 UST 3.875 12/31/27 UST 3.750 04/15/26 UST 3.625 03/31/30 UST 3.625 03/31/28 UST 3.875 03/31/25 UST 4.625 03/15/26 UST 1.500 02/15/53 UST 3.875 02/15/43 UST 4.625 02/28/25 UST 4.000 02/28/30 UST 4.000 02/29/28 UST 4.000 02/15/26 UST 3.625 02/15/53 UST 3.500 02/15/33 UST 3.500 01/31/28 UST 1.125 01/15/33 UST 4.125 01/31/25 UST 5.346 01/31/25 FRN UST 3.500 01/31/30 UST 3.875 01/15/26 UST 3.875 12/31/29 UST 4.250 05/31/25 UST 3.625 05/31/28 UST 3.875 05/15/43 UST 3.750 05/31/30 UST 3.625 05/15/53 UST 3.375 05/15/33 UST 3.625 05/15/26 UST 3.875 04/30/25 UST 3.500 04/30/30 UST 3.500 04/30/28 UST 5.541 04/30/25 FRN UST 1.250 04/15/28 UST 4.500 07/15/26 UST 3.750 06/30/30 UST 4.625 06/30/25 UST 4.000 06/30/28 UST 4.125 06/15/26 UST 4.625 09/30/30 UST 4.625 09/30/28 UST 5.000 09/30/25 UST 4.625 09/15/26 UST 4.375 08/15/43 UST 4.125 08/31/30 UST 5.000 08/31/25 UST 4.375 08/31/28 UST 3.875 08/15/33 UST 4.375 08/15/26 UST 4.125 08/15/53 UST 1.375 07/15/33 UST 5.538 07/31/25 FRN UST 4.750 07/31/25 UST 4.125 07/31/28 UST 4.000 07/31/30 UST 4.500 11/15/33 UST 4.625 11/15/26 UST 4.750 11/15/53 UST 2.375 10/15/28 UST 5.000 10/31/25 UST 4.875 10/31/28 UST 4.875 10/31/30 UST 5.521 10/31/25 FRN UST 4.625 10/15/26 UST 4.250 12/31/25 UST 3.750 12/31/28 UST 3.750 12/31/30 UST 4.375 12/15/26 UST 4.875 11/30/25 UST 4.750 11/15/43 UST 4.375 11/30/28 UST 4.375 11/30/30 UST 2.125 01/15/34 UST 4.000 01/15/27

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