PARIS, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's Corp. downgraded nine European countries Friday, including France, which had been perched at the highest triple A rating.
The rating agency that notched the U.S. rating down from the top tier in August 2010 also dropped Portugal's credit Friday, sending down to junk status. It dropped Italy's rating by two notches, The New York Times reported.
S&P had said it would resolve questions by the end of January about 15 countries in Europe it was reviewing in December, including Germany and the Netherlands, which appear to have come through their review unscathed, the Times said.
S&P reassigned France's rating to AA+ from AAA, the highest rating.
"It's not good news. But it is not a catastrophe," said French Finance Minister Francois Baroin.
When S&P downgraded the United States for the first time ever in August, stock markets turned in a chaotic week. The Dow Jones industrial average moved up or down by 400 points on four consecutive days -- the most volatile week in its 75-year history.
In Europe, both Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France informed German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week that stimulus measures were required to spark growth in Europe's sluggish economy. Merkel, who has advocated for fiscal discipline as a path out of the financial crisis, responded by acknowledging that austerity budgeting was not a panacea, the Times said.