MADRID--Spanish banking stocks were mostly unchanged Tuesday in early trade, following steep drops Monday ahead of a widely expected sector downgrade by Moody's Investors Service, amid lingering doubts on the lenders' short-term prospects.
At 0720 GMT, most banking stocks fell slightly in Madrid, with only nationalized Bankia SA (BKIA.MC) posting significant losses, down 2.9%. Sector bellwethers like Banco Santander SA (SAN.MC) and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA.MC) were both down under 1%.
Moody's overnight lowered its long-term ratings on 28 Spanish banks by one to four notches and lowered two issuer ratings, pointing to the reduced creditworthiness of Spain and expectations that the banks' exposure to commercial real estate will likely cause higher losses. Only seven banks are now above junk territory.
Banesto Bolsa, a Spanish brokerage, called the downgrade "the biggest ever blow for Spain's banking sector."
Earlier this month, the ratings firm had already lowered Spain's sovereign-debt rating by three notches to Baa3, placing it on the brink of junk territory. Moody's had also said it will keep Spain on review for a possible further downgrade.
Among the banks that remain above junk level, Banco Santander was lowered two notches to Baa2, BBVA was lowered three notches to Baa3, Caja Laboral was downgraded one notch to Baa3, Banca March SA and Caja Rural de Navarra S.C.C. were lowered two notches to Baa3. CaixaBank (CABK.MC) was lowered three notches to Baa3.
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