Monday, October 25, 2010

Bad prophets

The credit rating agencies have lowered Ireland's rating over the last few years, predicting rising risks in investing in Ireland's economy. So what did these seers predict during the height of the boom, when Ireland's economy was built on sand?

Moody's Investors Service, October 2005
However, we think the relatively broad and sustainable basis for housing demand is set to continue, reflected by strong demographics, substantial real income development and ongoing catching up effects. Therefore, the housing boom seems fundamentally backed.... Furthermore, Ireland’s economic base has broadened and become more stable over the years, indicating substantial resources to cope with risk of correction.... Moody’s notes that the Irish government’s fiscal position remains sound.

Fitch, July 2005
"The challenge for Ireland now is to adjust as the economy shifts to a lower GDP growth path of around 4%-5% per annum from average rates of close to 10% in the second half of the 1990s", said David Heslam, Associate Director in Fitch's sovereign department.

Standard & Poor's, December 2005:
“In the medium term, Ireland’s extremely strong credit standing should remain secure against nearly all foreseeable downside economic, political, and financial risks,” said Mr. Cullinan.

Ratings and Investment Information, Inc (R&I), January 2006:
...strong financial institutions with the ability to weather a recession also are sound. Based on the above factors, R&I has affirmed Ireland’s Foreign and Domestic Currency Issuer Rating at AAA. The Rating Outlook is Stable.

So these are organisations with a track record of failed predictions, yet they help determine nations' economic future. I have to agree with economist David McWilliams on this:

Like the whole economics and finance industry, the acid test of credibility should be how they answer the simple question: ‘‘Where were you in the boom?”

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