June 11, 2019 / 6:40 PM / 8 days ago

Mexico central bank chief flags concern over ratings setbacks

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s government must address concerns flagged by rating agencies over the sustainability of the country’s finances following debt downgrades last week, Mexican Central Bank Governor Alejandro Diaz de Leon said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's central Bank Governor Alejandro Diaz de Leon Carrillo speaks during an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the Mexican Banking Association's annual convention in Acapulco, Mexico March 9, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Fitch last week cut Mexico’s sovereign credit rating and then became the first major ratings agency to downgrade the debt of state oil company Pemex to “junk” status, in a major setback for President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Fellow ratings agency Moody’s also lowered its outlook for Mexico to negative, adding to pressure on the peso.

Speaking at a banking conference in Mexico City, Diaz de Leon said the ratings developments were a risk factor for the Mexican economy that needed to be tackled.

“This has happened at times in the past, and it was dealt with, and let’s hope this is the case (now) and that it’s not a major worry going forward,” Diaz de Leon said.

The central bank has repeatedly raised concerns about the risks posed to Mexico’s finances by Pemex, which has financial debts of around $106 billion.

Lopez Obrador has vowed to revive the struggling company, pumping extra cash into Pemex to shore it up.

Mexico’s economy contracted by 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of the year, and Diaz de Leon said the economic outlook for the coming months was uncertain.

He noted that investment had been sluggish this year but said remittances from abroad were helping to prop up private consumption.

Looking ahead, Diaz de Leon said attracting more investment and improving productivity were among the principal challenges facing Mexico’s policymakers.

Reporting by Sharay Angulo and Dave Graham, editing by Hugh Bronstein and Tom Brown

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