Moody's Investors Service, the international powerhouse of credit analysis and credit ratings, and its Israeli affiliate, Midroog Limited, said Monday that Israel's sovereign credit rating would remain at "A2," despite the victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections, as well as an increasingly outspoken Iranian militancy toward the country.
"It is not an immediate red flag," said Moody's VP and Senior Credit Officer Jonathan Schiffer, who maintained that for the short-term, Israel's external political pressures have no effect on the national rating.
"A2" represents a high-intermediate rating for the country's credit risk and capital market potential - the highest rating on the Moody's scale being "AAA" and the lowest being "C." Moody's credit score for Israel has been "A2" since June 2000.
On his first scheduled trip to Israel, Moody's CEO and Chairman Raymond McDaniel in Tel Aviv on Monday said, however, that it would be "naive" to assume that Hamas and Iran would not have their share of repercussions on the Israeli economy, or even on the relationship between Midroog and Moody's.
"We always maintain an advisory role once we have made an investment. But we have halted (additional) capital investment based on the outbreak of a crisis," McDaniel told The Jerusalem Post. "We have to look at a events from a narrow perspective of credit worthiness and respond based on developments."
Schiffer, meanwhile, stressed the upmarket aspects of Israel's economy, including the continued development of the hi-tech sector, commercial diversification, and a national inflation rate of less than three percent. He attributes the steadiness to an "improved geopolitical environment," the leadership by Israel's "proactive economic elite" and finally to "enhanced security" with regard to the threat of Palestinian violence.
Schiffer also underscored his company's three-to-five year "rolling-time horizon" - a professional window of either error or adjustment once the forecast of international credit risk has been made.
"Now," the VP said, "Israel is back on track."
International and domestic credit ratings are a serious business because they affect the ability of a country's businesses to raise capital - a higher rating means lower risk and, therefore, cheaper cost of capital while a lower rating means high risk and potentially very expensive terms for capital, if capital may be raised at all.