Page last updated at 17:58 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Latvian debt is given junk status

Vansu bridge, Riga
Latvia was the worst-performing EU economy at the end of 2008

Latvia's sovereign debt has been cut to junk status as its economy struggles with the financial crisis.

The credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's has reduced its rating to BB+/B, which is below investment grade.

S&P predicted that Latvia's economy would contract by 12% this year, following its 4.8% decline in 2008.

The Baltic nation was once the fastest growing economy in the European Union, but in the last three months of 2008 it was the worst-performing.

"The downgrade of Latvia reflects what we consider is a worsening external outlook and the associated implementation risks on the government's ambitious economic programme," said S&P credit analyst Eileen Zhang.

The country was forced to seek a 7.5bn-euro ($9.6bn; 6.7bn) bail-out from the International Monetary Fund in December, after nationalising its second-biggest bank.

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