NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Moody's Investors Service cut its credit ratings on Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA on Monday, saying the Spanish government's weakening finances make it less likely that the country will be able to lend support to its banks.
The action came on the same day that Spain's government formally requested help from its European neighbors to clean up its stricken banks.
Lenders like Banco Bilbao are vulnerable to losses from Spain's commercial real estate crash, Moody's noted.
The ratings firm lowered Banco Bilbao's long-term credit rating three notches to "Baa3" from "A3." The rating remains at investment grade on Moody's scale.
In addition, Moody's placed its outlook on the rating under review for a possible downgrade.
A downgrade usually means banks must pay more to borrow. Investors demand higher interest rates for riskier debt, which is what the downgrades represent. But interest rates already are at rock-bottom so the lower ratings may not significantly affect banks' borrowing costs.
All told, Moody's cut credit ratings on 28 Spanish banks, citing its cut this month in its credit rating for Spain's government.
The Spanish economy, the fourth-largest of the 17 countries that use the euro currency, is suffering the aftershocks of a real estate bust that has devastated families as well as banks. Unemployment is nearly 25 percent.