By Benjamin Cunningham - Staff Writer
Portugal downgrade, Italy debt levels spark contagion fears
Amid speculation that Greece may have no choice but to default on some debt and growing fears that debt levels in Italy are unsustainable, European leaders are refocusing attention on the potentially negative influence of credit-rating agencies, which were widely seen as complicit in fomenting the 2008 financial crash.
It was the sudden four-level downgrade of Portugal's credit rating to junk status by Moody's July 6 that prompted a rash of unusually strongly worded criticism in recent days. The barrage comes in the wake of what leaders considered poorly timed downgrades to Greek and Spanish debt last year, and is leading to fears that the rating agencies are helping push the eurozone further into crisis.