FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Global rating agencies appear to have learned from past errors and their current assessment may better reflect euro zone vulnerabilities before the continent's debt crisis, a European Central Bank research paper concluded.
Ratings before 2010 did not serve as a leading indicator of debt and growth risks but there is some evidence that ratings are now more sensitive to institutional factors and economic fundamentals, the authors said in a paper that does not necessarily reflect the ECB's views.
Some regulators and policymakers questioned the judgment of rating agencies for giving top-notch credit scores to debt that later unraveled, and for failing to properly appreciate the risks in more complex financial instruments.
EU lawmakers implemented new regulations on rating agencies after the crisis but some have called for even more stringent rules.
"While in the pre-sovereign crisis period buoyancy was masking latent vulnerabilities, there appear to have been some learning process by rating agencies since 2010, leading to a swifter adjustment of rating agencies to a move in fundamentals," the ECB paper, published on Thursday, said.
Rating moves suggest that agencies have attached a higher emphasis to risks stemming from the fiscal dynamics, whereas economic development seemed to have played a stronger role in the pre-crisis period.
"This implies that the current ratings may better reflect the significant vulnerabilities and risks of several euro area countries," the paper said. "The size of the downgrades observed since the start of the sovereign crisis has been broadly in line with the deterioration of economic fundamentals for most countries."
(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)