Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Wednesday affirmed that trust in Japan's government bonds remains firm despite the downgrade of its credit rating by Moody's Investors Service Inc..
While declining to comment on the Moody's decision, Noda said, "The smooth sales of Japanese government bonds at recent auctions show that confidence in our bonds remains unshaken.
Earlier in the day, the US rating agency lowered the credit rating of Japanese government bonds by one notch to Aa3 from Aa2, the first Japan downgrade since 2002, citing the country's weak prospects for economic growth, huge government debt and constant political uncertainty.
The new rating ranks Japanese debt at the same level as that of countries like China and Chile.
The March 11 earthquake and tsunami, as well as the ongoing nuclear crisis are slowing Japan's economic growth, Moody's said in a report, adding that the Japanese government has failed to hammer out viable plans for the social security and tax reform.
Japan's public debt may exceed 200 percent of annual gross domestic product (GDP) in fiscal 2016 at the earliest, according to the government estimate.
"Over the past five years, frequent changes in administrations have prevented the government from implementing long-term economic and fiscal strategies into effective and durable policies," Moody's pointed out.
The downgrade comes ahead of the ruling party's presidential election to decide the next Japanese prime minister next week.
However, the agency highlighted Japan's large economy and dependable domestic funding base that enables the government to fund itself at a lower nominal cost than any other advanced economy.
"We believe that this funding cost advantage will be sustained by considerable institutional and structural strengths, which will prevail even with large budget deficits in 2011 and 2012," Moody's said. It also said that the outlook on its new rating is stable.
The impact from the downgrade on the bond market was limited on Wednesday, as the move had been widely expected. Standard Poor's also lowered Japan's rating to AA- in January, equivalent to the current Moody's grade.