The ratings service Standard & Poor's sent out an alert on Wednesday announcing it had downgraded France's credit rating -- but the agency hadn't actually downgraded the country, and is blaming a "technical error" for the flub. S&P, which downgraded the United States' credit rating earlier this year, hasn't explained the nature of the error, and its spokesman refused to comment on whether it was a mistake or some kind of attack. The ratings agency did issue a press release acknowledging the gaffe, and pointing out that if one had clicked through the link in its flawed message, one would have seen France's credit rating had stayed unchanged. Its release:
LONDON (Standard & Poor's) Nov. 10, 2011--As a result of a technical error, a message was automatically disseminated today to some subscribers of S&P's Global Credit Portal suggesting that France's credit rating had been changed. This is not the case: the ratings on Republic of France remain 'AAA/A-1+' with a stable outlook, and this incident is not related to any ratings surveillance activity. We are investigating the cause of the error.
And the original, flawed message it sent out:
The company is staying very quiet about the nature of the error. When asked if it could have been hacked, as the financial blog Zero Hedge suggested via Twitter, spokesman Martin Winn said he had "no comment at all." He refused to speak further about the nature of the error, saying, "we can't speak to that. That's why we said we're investigating."
The news that France's credit rating hadn't actually been slashed bouyed stocks in the United Staets, The Wall Street Journal reported. But traders were annoyed: "This is the same risk-on, risk-off [issue] we continue to deal with out of Europe," Chip Cobb, senior vice president at Bryn Mawr Trust Asset Management, told The Journal. "We cannot get past the headline risk." The Financial Times noted that the incorrect information pushed up the yield on France's 10-year bonds, which stayed high even after news of the mistake broke.